Child Protection: Policy and Procedures
The guidelines in this document are based on the following documents:
Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children, Dept. of Health & Children 1999
Guidance for Teachers, INTO.
Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures, DES, 2011.
Issues such Bullying / General Behaviour are dealt with in the School’s Code of Behaviour Document which is available on the website, www.colmcilles.net and in hard copy
Core Values in St Colmcille’s BNS
The work in our school is based on the following principles that will guide the interactions which occur among all members of our school community. Our pupils’ experience of school should be guided by what is best for them.
Integrity in relationships
Adults interacting with young people should do so with integrity and respect for the child. All adult actions in our school should be guided by what is best for the child and verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse of any kind are unacceptable.
Quality of atmosphere and ethos
The education of young people should be conducted in a safe, positive and encouraging atmosphere. A child-centred ethos will help to ensure that pupils are facilitated to develop at an appropriate pace.
All children should be treated in an equitable and fair manner regardless of age, ability, sex, religion, social and ethnic background or political persuasion.
The Board of Management of St Colmcille’s BNS is fully committed to safeguarding the well- being of its pupils. Every individual in our school (teacher / member of ancillary staff / volunteer) should at all times, show respect and understanding for pupils’ rights, safety and welfare and conduct themselves in a way that reflects the principles of our school.
Our first priority is the welfare of the young people entrusted to our care and we are committed to providing an environment which will allow our pupils to learn to the best of their ability, free from bullying and intimidation. The BOM wishes to provide the best possible environment for our pupils because young people deserve to be educated in a safe environment free of abuse of any kind. Our pupils have rights, which must be respected, and responsibilities that they must accept. They will be encouraged to realise that they have responsibilities to treat other pupils / teachers and ancillary staff with courtesy and respect.
Designated Liaison Persons
The Board of Management of St Colmcille’s BNS has nominated the following personnel to act as Designated Liaison Persons.
Chairperson of Board of Management: Mrs Veronica McDermott, St Colmcille’s BNS, Chapel Lane, Swords, Co. Dublin. Ph: (01) 8405132
Designated Person in St Colmcille’s BNS to whom incidents should be reported is: Kieran Lyons, (Principal) St Colmcille’s BNS, Chapel Lane, Swords, Co. Dublin. Ph: (01) 8405132 (W); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy Designated Person: Pat Mc Guinness (Deputy Principal), St Colmcille’s BNS, Chapel Lane, Swords, Co. Dublin. Ph: (01) 8405132; email: Colmcilles@gmail.com
Recruitment and Selection Policy
- Before teachers are appointed to the staff of the school, referees are contacted
- Before ancillary staff are appointed to the staff of the school, referees are contacted.
- Referees are consulted prior to the appointment of long-term substitutes or temporary teachers
- In the case of short-term substitutes or temporary teachers, they are vetted by the INTO or IPPN
- Volunteers to assist with school activities or facilitators from outside school always work with teachers present
Child Welfare and Protection Procedures
Child welfare and the protection of young people are the concern of all adults at all times, irrespective of their role within this school.
Guidelines for teachers / ancillary staff
If there are grounds for concern about the safety or welfare of a young person you should log this concern. Persons unsure about whether or not certain behaviours are abusive and therefore reportable, should speak to the Designated Liaison Person, and he / she will contact the duty social worker in the local health board or social services department where they will receive advice. Grounds for concern include a specific indication from a child, a statement from a person who witnessed abuse or an illness, injury or behaviour consistent with abuse.
A concern reported to the Designated Person may be made by a pupil / teacher / member of ancillary staff / parent who may in turn have to pass the concern to the local Statutory Authorities. It is not the responsibility of anyone working in St Colmcille’s BNS to take responsibility or decide whether or not child abuse is taking place. That is the job of the local statutory authorities. However, there is a responsibility to protect children by assisting the appropriate agencies so that they can then make enquiries and take any necessary action to protect the young person.
Everyone should follow both procedures outlined below, firstly the procedure for responding to a child in distress and secondly the procedure for reporting the concern.
Response to a Child Disclosing Abuse
Note: If a pupil indicates that they wish to make an allegation of abuse, it is recommended that the person to whom the allegation is being made, be accompanied by one other person.
When a young person discloses information of suspected abuse you should:
- deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent way through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem, rather than interviewing the child about details of what happened
- stay calm and not show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying. Listen compassionately, and take what the child is saying seriously
- understand that the child has decided to tell something very important and has taken a risk to do so. The experience of telling should be a positive one so that the child will not mind talking to those involved in the investigation
- be honest with the child and tell them that it is not possible to keep information a secret
- make no judgmental statements against the person whom the allegation is made
- not question the child unless the nature of what he is saying is unclear. Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non-specific questions should be used such as “Can you explain to me what you mean by that”
- check out the concerns with the parents/guardians before making a report unless doing so would endanger the child
- give the child some indication of what would happen next, such as informing parents/guardians, health board or social services. It should be kept in mind that the child may have been threatened and may feel vulnerable at this stage.
- carefully record the details – use child’s register number rather than the child’s name – do not retain these details in your own classroom
- Pass on this information to the Designated Person who will ensure that it is stored in a safe place away from the ordinary records which are kept on pupils
- reassure the child that they have done the right thing in telling you
Reporting Suspected or Disclosed Child Abuse
The following steps should be taken in reporting child abuse to the statutory authorities:
- Observe and note dates, times, locations and contexts in which the incident occurred or suspicion was aroused, together with any other relevant information
- Report the matter as soon as possible to the Designated Person with responsibility for reporting abuse. If the Designated Person has reasonable grounds for believing that the child has been abused or is at risk of abuse, s/he will make a report to the health board/social services who have statutory responsibility to investigate and assess suspected or actual child abuse
- In cases of emergency, where a child appears to be at immediate and serious risk and the Designated Person is unable to contact a duty social worker, the police authorities should be contacted. Under no circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending intervention by the Statutory Authorities
- If the Designated Person is unsure whether reasonable grounds for concern exist s/he can informally consult with the local health board/social services. S/he will be advised whether or not the matter requires a formal report.
A Designated Person reporting suspected or actual child abuse to the Statutory Authorities will first inform the family of their intention to make such a report, unless doing so would endanger the child or undermine an investigation
The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 provides immunity from civil liability to persons who report child abuse ‘reasonably and in good faith’ to the Health Board or the Gardaí (See 5.13.1 – ISC. Code). The act also covers the offence of ‘false reporting’. The main provisions of the Act are:
- 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;
- The provision of immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to designated officers of Health Boards or any member of An Garda Siochána;
- The creation of a new offence of 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.
Allegations against Teachers / Other Members of School Community
The Board of Management of St Colmcille’s BNS has agreed procedures to be followed in cases of alleged child abuse against teachers /ancillary staff / volunteer helpers / visiting coaches. Two procedures should be followed:
- The reporting procedure in respect of suspected child abuse
- The procedure for dealing with the person against whom the allegation is made (carried out by the Chairperson of the BOM )
The safety of the child making the allegation should be considered and the safety of any other children who may be at risk. The school will take any necessary steps that may be necessary to protect children in its care
The issue of confidentiality is important. Information is on a need to know basis and the person against whom the allegation is made should be treated with respect and fairness.
The reporting procedure
If the Designated Person has reasonable grounds for concern, the matter should be reported to the local health board / social services, following the standard reporting procedure.
Person against whom allegation is made
While the Designated Person makes the report to the local health board, the Chairperson of the BOM should deal with the person in question.
- The Chairperson should privately inform the person that (a) an allegation has been made against him / her and (b) the nature of the allegation. He / she should be afforded an opportunity to respond, and to be accompanied by another adult.
- The teacher / person against whom the allegation is made should be asked to step aside pending the outcome of the investigation. When a person is asked to step aside it should be made clear that it is only a precautionary measure and will not prejudice any later disciplinary proceedings.
The Board of Management should be informed by the Designated Person that a staff member has been asked to stand aside. The Board of Management can consider taking disciplinary action against the person but should ensure that this does not interfere with the investigation of the Statutory Authorities. The BOM will give due consideration to the outcome of the investigation and any implications which it might have.
Confidentiality should be maintained in respect of all issues and people involved in cases of abuse, welfare or bad practice. It is important that the rights of both the child and the person about whom the complaint has been made are protected.
The following points should be kept in mind:
- A guarantee of confidentiality or undertakings regarding secrecy cannot be given, as the welfare of the child will supersede all other considerations
- All information should be treated in a careful and sensitive manner and should be discussed only with those who need to know
- Information should be conveyed in a sensitive manner to the parents / guardians of the child about whom there are concerns
- Giving information to others on a ‘need to know’ basis for the protection of a child is not a breach of confidentiality
- All persons involved in a child protection process (the child, his/her parents/guardians, the alleged offender, his/her family) should be afforded appropriate respect, fairness, support and confidentiality at all stages of the procedure.
- Information should be stored in a secure place, with limited access to designated people.
- The requirements of the Data Protection laws should be adhered to.
- Breach of confidentiality is a serious manner.
Anonymous complaints can be difficult to deal with but should not be ignored. In all cases the safety and welfare of the child/children is paramount. Any such complaints relating to inappropriate behaviour should be brought to the attention of the Children’s Officer or the Designated Person. The information should be checked out and handled in a confidential manner.
Rumours should not be allowed to hang in the air. Any rumours relating to inappropriate behaviour should be brought to the attention of the Designated Person and checked out without delay.
Guidelines on General Issues
- Security – access to the school is by one door only which is monitored by CCVT, and controlled by members of the ancillary staff
- Collection of pupils in instances where a parent is not available to collect must be done by a person who has been authorised by the parent (phone message or note to the school)
- Pupils doing errands within school – should be sent in twos
- Pupils doing errands outside of school – this practice is not allowed
- Pupils being put outside of door – this practice is not allowed
- Mobile phones – the Board of Management has banned pupils from using mobile phones during the school day
- If parents are acting as volunteers with regard to assisting in the supervision of an activity such as swimming, they are assigned in twos
Travelling and Supervision
There is extra responsibility taken on by teachers / coaches when they travel with children to events. When travelling with young people you should:
- Ensure that there is adequate insurance cover
- Not carry more than the permitted number of passengers
- Ensure use of safety belts
- Avoid being alone with one participant, put passenger in the back seat, drop off at central locations or seek parental permission to transport an individual participant on a regular basis and clearly state times of pick- up and drop off
- Make sure there is an adequate adult: child ratio. This will depend on the nature of the activity, the age of the participants and any special needs of the group.
- Avoid being alone with one participant, if you need to talk separately do so in an open environment, in view of others
- Clearly state time for start and end of coaching sessions or competitions
- Leaders should remain in pairs until all participants have been collected
- Keep attendance records and record of any incidents / injuries that arise
- Separate permission forms should be signed by parents and participants, containing emergency contact number
- Management team will make a report on returning home
- Communicate with parents and participants with regard to travel times, other activities, gear requirements, medical requirements, special dietary needs and any other necessary details
- Children should be under reasonable supervision at all times and should never leave a venue or go unsupervised
- Pupils whose behaviour gives cause for concern are not allowed to go on school tours /outings
- Teachers / coaches / volunteers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the pupils with whom they work
- Ensure activities are suitable for age and stage of development of participants
- Keep a record of any specific medical conditions of the participants
- Keep a record of emergency contact numbers for parents / guardians
- Ensure any necessary protective gear is used
- Keep First Aid kit stocked up and ensure that is readily available
- Know the contact numbers of emergency services
- Ensure access to medical personnel if needed and have a emergency plan
- If an incident occurs, make a brief record of injury and action taken. Make a brief record of the problem/action/outcome. Contact the pupil’s parents and keep them informed of all details
- Ensure parents / guardians are informed with regard to finishing time of sessions or events
- Avoid unnecessary physical contact
- Any necessary contact should be in response to the needs of the child and not the adult
- It should be in an open environment with the permission and understanding of the participant
- It should be determined by the age and developmental stage of the participant – Don’t do something that a child can do for themselves
- Never engage in inappropriate touching
Use of Photographic and Filming Equipment
St Colmcille’s BNS has adopted a policy in relation to the use of images of pupils on its website and in other publications as there have been concerns about the risks posed directly and indirectly to children and young people through the use of photographs on websites and other publications.
Rules to guide the use of photography:
- If a pupil is named, avoid using his photograph.
- If a photograph is used, avoid naming the pupil
- Ask for parental permission to use an image of a pupil
- When commissioning professional photographers or inviting the press to an activity or event we will aim to ensure they are clear about our expectations of them in relation to child protection. Professional photographers/film/video operators wishing to record an event should seek accreditation with the event organiser by producing their professional identification for the details to be recorded. We will then:
- Provide a clear brief about what is considered appropriate in terms of content and behaviour
- Issue the photographer with identification which must be worn at all times
- Keep a record of accreditations
- Not allow unsupervised access to pupils or one to one photo sessions at events