CHILD PROTECTION POLICY

 

INTRODUCTION

This policy document has been drawn up by staff, parents and Board of Management of St. Laurence’s National School, Chapelizod, in response to recent changes in legislation. The policy takes account of the provisions of the following legislation:

The Education Act (1998)

The Education Welfare Act (2000)

The Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act (1993)

Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (2004)

Safety, Health at Work Act (2005)

In all instances of suspicion or allegations of abuse or neglect, the following guidelines will be referenced:

Children First (Department of Health & Children, 1999)

Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, 2001)

AIMS OF POLICY

The aims of the Child Protection Policy are to:

  • Put in place clear procedures for dealing with and reporting suspected/alleged cases of child neglect or abuse.
  • Endeavour to safeguard the well being of the child and intervene when necessary to protect their rights.
  • Help school personnel recognise the signs of neglect or abuse.
  • Provide a safe environment for our school community.

DEFINITION OF ABUSE

Child abuse can be categorised into four different types:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual Abuse

DEFINITION OF NEGLECT

Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults (3.2.Children First)

DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Emotional Abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between a care­giver and a child, rather than in specific events or patterns of events. It occurs when a child’s needs for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it rarely manifests in terms of physical signs or symptoms (3.3 Children First).

DEFINITION OF SEXUAL ABUSE

Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his/her gratification or sexual arousal (3.5 Children First)

More details of each type of abuse is contained in Appendix 1, p.125, Children First

GUIDELINES FOR RECOGNISING THE SIGNS OF ABUSE (3.9. Children First)

The recognition of abuse normally runs along three stages:

  1. Considering the possibility – if a child appears to have suffered an inexplicable and suspicious injury, seems distressed without obvious reason, displays unusual behavioural problems or appears fearful in the company of parents/carers.
  2. Observing signs of abuse­ a cluster or pattern of signs is the most reliable indicator of abuse. Children may make direct or indirect disclosures, which should always be taken seriously. Less obvious disclosures may be gently explored with a child, without direct questioning (which may be more usefully carried out by the Health Board or the Gardaí). Play situations such as drawing or story telling may reveal significant information which could be considered in relation to the child’s social and family context, and it is important to always be open to alternative explanations.
  3. Recording of Information ­it is important to establish the grounds for concern, by obtaining as much information as possible. Observations should be recorded and should include dates, times, names, locations, context and any information which could be considered relevant or which might facilitate further assessment/investigation.

HANDLING DISCLOSURES FROM CHILDREN (2.4 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)

An abused child is likely to be under severe emotional stress and staff members may be the only adult whom the child is prepared to trust. Great care should be taken not to damage that trust.

When information is offered in confidence, the member of staff will need tact and sensitivity in responding to the disclosure. The member of staff will need to reassure the child and retain his/her trust while explaining the need for action and the possible consequence, which will necessarily involve other adults being informed. It is important to tell the child that everything possible will be done to protect and support him/her, but not to make promises that cannot be kept e.g. promising not to tell anyone else. While the basis for concern must be established as comprehensively as possible, the following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse.

  • Listen to the child
  • Do not ask leading questions nor make suggestions to the child.
  • Offer reassurance but do not make promises.
  • Do not stop a child recalling significant events.
  • Do not react
  • Explain that further help may have to be sought.
  • Record the discussion accurately and retain the record (see staff reporting form).

This written information (pink reporting form) should be given to and retained by the DLP

DESIGNATED LIAISON PERSONS (DLPs) (2.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)

All Boards of Management must designate a senior member of staff to have specific responsibility for child protection. This person will be the Designated Liaison Person for the school when dealing with the Health Boards, An Garda Síochána and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. Those other parties should be advised that they should conduct all matters pertaining to the processing or investigations of alleged child abuse through the Designated Liaison Person (DLP).

Where the Designated Liaison Person is unavailable for whatever reason, arrangements should be in place for another nominated member of staff to assume his/her responsibility .i.e. the Deputy Designated Liaison Person.

The school principal, Ms. Jennifer Julia Hackett, will act as DLP following ratification by the Board of Management. The Deputy Liaison Person is Ms. Vanessa Carty. The DLP has specific responsibility for child protection and will represent the school in all dealings with health boards, An Garda Síochána and other parties, in connection with allegations of abuse.

ACTION TO BE TAKEN BY THE DESIGNATED LIAISON PERSON (3.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)

If the school employee and the Designated Liaison Person are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion or allegation the DLP should report the matter to the relevant Health Board immediately. It may be useful to note:

  1. A report should be made to the Health Board in person by phone and writing. Each health board has a social worker, who is available during certain hours to meet with, or talk on the telephone, to persons wishing to report child protection concerns.
  2. It is generally most helpful if persons wishing to report child abuse concerns make personal contact with the duty social worker. This will facilitate the social worker in gathering as much information as possible about the child and his parent/carers.
  3. In the event of an emergency, or the non availability of health board staff, the report should be made to the Gardaí. This may be done at any Garda Station.

It is recommended that all reports should include as much as possible of the information sought in the Standard Reporting Form. Since all information requested may not be available to the person making the report, the form should be completed as comprehensively as possible. When such a report is being made to the Health Board, the Chairperson of the Board of Management should be informed.

In the case where the school personnel have concerns about a child, but are not sure whether to report the matter to the appropriate health board, they should seek appropriate advice. To do so, the DLP should consult the appropriate health board staff. In consulting the appropriate health board staff, the DLP would have to give identifying details as are required when a report is being made. If the health board advises that a referral should be made, the DLP should act on that advice.

In following the discussion outlined, the DLP decides that the concerns of the school employee should not be referred to the relevant Health Board; the school employee should be given a clear statement, in writing, as to the reason why the action is not being taken. The school employee should be advised that, if he/she remains concerned about the situation, he/she is free to consult with or report to the Health Board. Again, the standard reporting form (see template) of these guidelines should be used. Any such report would be covered by the Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998.

CONFIDENTIALITY (1.2 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)

All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should be only shared on a need to know basis, in the interest of the child. The test is whether or not the person has any legitimate involvement or role in dealing with the issue

Giving information to those who need to have that information for the protection of the child who may have been or has been abused, is not a breach of confidentiality.

The DLP who is submitting a report to the Health Board or An Garda Síochána should inform a parent/guardian, unless doing so is likely to endanger the child or place that child at further risk. A decision not to inform a parent/guardian should be briefly recorded together with the reason for not doing so.

In emergency situations, where the Health Board cannot be contacted, and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, the Gardaí should be contacted immediately.

Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending health board intervention.

PROTECTION FOR PERSONS REPORTING CHILD ABUSE (1.3 DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures: 2.4 Children First)

The protection for persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports suspicions of child abuse reasonably and in good faith to designated officers of health boards, or any member of An Garda Síochána. This means that even if a reported suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the reporter had not acted reasonably and in good faith making the report.

The Act provides significant protection for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to, and including dismissal.

The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act (1998) came into operation on 23rd January 1999. It main provisions are:

  1. The provision of immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse reasonably and in good faith to designated officers of the Health Board or any member of An Garda Síochána.  
  2. The provision of significant protections for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to and including dismissal.
  3. The creation of a new offence of the false reporting of child abuse, where a person makes a report of child abuse to the appropriate authorities knowing that statement to be false. This is a new criminal offence designed to protect innocent persons from malicious reports.

QUALIFIED PRIVILEGE (1.4.DES Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures)

While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities (i,e, health boards and An Garda Síochána), Common Law qualified privilege continues to apply as heretofore. Consequently, should a Board of Management member or school personnel furnish information with regard to suspicions of child abuse to the DLP or Chairperson of the Board of Management, such communication would be regarded under common law as having qualified privilege.

Qualified privilege arises where the person making the communication has a duty to do so, or a right, or interest to protect the child and where the communication is made to a person with a similar duty, right or interest. The person making the report, acting in loco parentis, would be expected to act in the child’s best interests, and in making the report would be regarded as acting in such a manner. Privilege can be displaced only where it can be established that the person making the report acted maliciously.

Furthermore, those reporting a child’s disclosure are not regarded as making an allegation as a matter of charge, but simply carrying out of their duty in good faith. They are not accusing or bringing a charge.        

Freedom of Information Act 1997

  1. DES Guidelines
  2. Children First

Reports made to health boards may be subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (1997), which enables members of public to obtain access to personal information relating to them which is in the possession of public bodies. However, the Act also provides that public bodies may refuse access to information obtained by them in confidence.

PREVETIO OF CHILD ABUSE THROUGH CURRICULAR PROVISIO

The following programmes are already in place in the school:

  • Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Stay Safe, Walk Tall
  • Self-esteem enhancement programmes/activities –  Circle

Allegations or Suspicions in relation to School Employees

The Chairperson and the DLP are primarily concerned with the protection of the children in their care. However, employees must be protected against false and malicious claims.

Legal Advice should be sought by the board in relation to the employee.  If the allegation is against the DLP, the BoM Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.

Reporting

When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should act in accordance with the procedures outlined in ‘Child Protection’ (DES 2001, page 11).  A written statement of the allegation should be sought from the person/agency making the report. A parent/guardian may make a statement on behalf of a child.  The DLP should always inform the Chairperson of the BoM.

School employees, other than the DLP, who receive allegations against another school employee, should immediately report the matter to the DLP.  School employees who form suspicions regarding conduct of another school employee should consult with the DLP. The procedures outlined in ‘Child Protection’ (DES 2001, page 16) should be referred to.

The Chairperson and the DLP should make the employee aware privately:

a. That an allegation has been made against him/her

b. Of the nature of the allegation

c. Whether or not the Health Board or the Gardaí have been informed.

The employee should be given a copy of the written allegation and any other relevant documentation. The employee should be requested to respond to the allegation in writing to the BoM within a specified period and told that this may be passed to the Gardaí, Health Board and legal advisers.

The Chairperson must take the necessary steps to protect the child and may consult the BoM in this matter. The BoM may direct that the employee take administrative leave with pay and avoid suspension, thus removing any implication of guilt.  The DES should be immediately informed.

Further follow-up procedures should be observed as outlined in ‘Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures’ (page 17)

Ratification of Policy

This policy will be reviewed by the Board of Management once in every school year.

This policy was adopted by the Board of Management on   ______________.

Signed: _________________________         Signed: __________________________

Chairperson of Board of Management                Principal

 

Date: __________________________           Date: __________________________

 

Date of next review:_____________

The Board further endorses the Principal, Ms. Jennifer Julia Hackett as the school DLP and Ms. Vanessa Carty as Deputy DLP.

 On behalf of the Board of Management:

 

_______________________________ (Chairperson)   Date: _____________________

Child Protection Practices

The staff and BoM of this school have identified the following as areas of specific concern in relation to Child Protection. Following discussion and consultation, the staff and BoM have agreed that the following practices be adopted:

  •  Physical contact between school personnel and the child should always be in response to the needs of the child and not the needs of the adult.

While physical contact may be used to comfort, reassure or assist a child, the following should be factors in determining its appropriateness:

  • It is acceptable to the child
  • It is open and not secretive
  • The age and developmental stage of the child

School personnel should avoid doing anything of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves.

School personnel should never engage in or allow:

  •  The use of inappropriate language or behaviours
  • Physical punishment of any kind
  • Sexually provocative games or suggestive comments about or to a child
  • The use of sexually explicit or pornagraphic material

All media products (CDs, DVDs etc. should be checked for their appropriateness with regard to age and suitability.

Visitors/Guest Speakers

Vetted guest speakers and visiting teachers of varying disciplines, employed by the BoM of St. Laurence’s N.S., Chapelizod to perform specific duties, will be left work with a class alone at the Principal’s discretion

Visitors/Guest speakers should never be left alone with pupils. The school (principal/ teachers) has a responsibility to check out the credentials of the visitor/guest speaker and to ensure that the material in use is appropriate.

Children with specific toileting/intimate care needs

  • In all situations where a pupil needs assistance with toileting/intimate care, a meeting will be convened, after enrolment and before the child starts school, between parents/guardians, class teacher, special needs assistant, Principal and if appropriate the pupil. The purpose of the meeting  will be to ascertain the specific needs of the child and to determine how the school can best meet those needs.
  • The staff to be involved in this care will be identified and provision will be made for occasions when the particular staff involved are absent. A written copy of what has been agreed will be made and kept in the child’s file
  • Two members of staff will be present when dealing with intimate care/toileting needs.  Any deviation from the agreed procedure will be recorded and notified to the DLP and the parents/guardians.

Toileting accidents

Clean underwear and suitable clothing will be kept in the school so that if a pupil has an ‘accident’ of this nature, they will in the first instance be offered fresh clothing into which they can change.

If the pupil for whatever reason cannot clean or change themselves and the parents/guardians cannot be contacted, the child will be assisted by members of staff familiar to the child. In all such situations, two members of staff should be present.  A record of all such incidents will be kept and the Principal and the child’s parents will be notified.

Accidents

While every precaution will be taken under our Health and Safety Statement to ensure the safety of children, we realise that accidents will happen. Accidents will be noted in our Incident book and will be addressed under our Accident Policy as part of Health and Safety.

One-to-one teaching

  • It is the policy in this school that one-to-one teaching is often in the best interest of the child
  • Every effort will be made to ensure that this teaching takes place in an open environment
  • Parents of children who are to be involved in one-to-one teaching will be informed and their agreement sought
  • Work being carried out by Special Needs Assistants will be carried out under the direction of the class teacher in an open environment.

Changing for games/ PE / Swimming

Pupils will be expected to dress and undress themselves for Games/ PE/ Swimming.  Where assistance is needed this will be done in the communal area and with the consent of parents. Under no circumstances will members of staff/ volunteers be expected to or allowed to dress/undress a child in a cubicle/private area.  In such situations where privacy is required, the parents/guardians of the child will be asked to assist the child. St. Laurence’s N.S., Chapelizod will endeavour to have two male volunteers/member of staff in the male changing area and two female members of staff/ volunteers in the female changing area.

The BoM of St. Laurence’s N.S., Chapelizod has requested that all swimming volunteers apply to be vetted for 2011 -2012 school year.  In the interim, a Volunteer Form approved by the CPSMA will be in use.  At all times there must be adequate supervision of pupils.  While every effort will be made to adhere to best practice as agreed and outlined above, in the event of an emergency where this is not possible or practicable, a full record of the incident should be made and reported to the Principal and parents.

Attendance

Our school attendance will be monitored as per our attendance policy. With regards to child protection, we will pay particular attention to trends in non-attendance. We will also monitor non-attendance in correlation with signs of neglect/physical/emotional abuse.

Behaviour

Children are encouraged at all times to play co-operatively and inappropriate behaviour will be addressed under our Code of Behaviour. If an incident occurs which we consider to be of a sexualised nature we will notify the DLP who will record it and respond to it appropriately.

Bullying

Bullying behaviour will be addressed under our Anti-Bullying policy. If the behaviour involved is of a sexualised nature or regarded as being particularly abusive, then the matter will be referred to the DLP.

Children travelling in staff cars

Members of the school staff will not carry children alone in their cars at any time.

Communication

Every effort will be made to enhance pupil-teacher communication. If pupils have concerns they will be listened to sympathetically. The SPHE/Oral Language/RE programmes allow for open pupil-teacher communication, which is hoped will aid the pupil-teacher relationship. If teachers have to communicate with pupils on a one-to-one basis, they are requested to leave the classroom door open or request a colleague to attend. Further details on communications are found in the school’s Communication Policy.

Induction of Staff

The DLP will be responsible for informing all new teachers and ancillary staff of the Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures (DES, 2001) and Children First Guidelines (1999), but particularly the recently published Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011). The DLP will give a copy of the Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures, Chapters 3 & 4 and Appendix 1 of Children First and this Child Protection Policy to all new staff. All new teachers are expected to teach the designated SPHE objectives for their class. A member of staff, once trained, will be responsible for the mentoring of new teachers and will be responsible for supporting new teachers as they implement the SPHE objectives. Ms. Jennifer Julia Hackett is responsible for ensuring that new teachers know how to fill in the roll book correctly and informing the teacher of record keeping procedures within the school.

Induction of Pupils

All parents and children will be made aware of attendance rules and their implications as laid down in the Education Welfare Act (2000). All parents will be informed of the programmes in place in the school that deal with personal development e.g. RSE, Walk Tall, Stay Safe and SPHE. All new parents will be given a copy of the school’s enrolment policy, which outlines the procedures parents and children should use when contacting the school if there are absences or concerns of an educational/personal/family matter. Parents are encouraged to make an appointment with the class teacher/principal if they wish to discuss their child’s progress. All parents will be given a copy of the school’s Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying policies.

Internet Safety

It is the intention of the Principal and Staff at St. Laurence’s N.S., Chapelizod to ensure that child protection concerns will be addressed in the school’s Acceptable Use Policy as part of its Information and Communication Technology policy. The Stay Safe lessons in each classroom will be supplemented with a lesson from the Webwise resource pack recently made available to schools. There will also be annual meetings during which parents will be invited to attend a session with an invited speaker to stay abreast of the ever-changing situation regarding internet access.

Record Keeping

Teachers will keep records on each child’s reports using St. Laurence’s N.S., Chapelizod’s Record Keeping Sheets. These records are kept in the drawer of each teacher’s desk. Roll books will be updated daily. Sensitive information regarding children will be shared on a need-to-know basis. All educational files of pupils who no longer attend this school are kept in the filing cabinet in the office. Further details on record keeping will be found in the school’s Record Keeping Policy.

Supervision

The school’s supervision policy will be followed by all staff to ensure that there is comprehensive supervision of children at all breaks. A rota will be displayed to cover 11 o’clock and lunchtime breaks. See Supervision Policy for agreed rules around break-times and procedures around teacher absences.

Visibility

Teachers will ensure that children are visible in the school playground. Children will not be allowed to spend time in classrooms, toilets or sheds where they would not be under adult supervision. They are not to leave the school playground or to engage with adults who are outside of the school playground.