Equality of Opportunity and Access

Equality of Opportunity and Access Policy

Rationale

The Equal Status Acts 2000 – 2004, the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004 and the Education Act 1998 call upon each school to outline a policy document that addresses equality of access and participation.  The DES – Equality Authority booklet, Schools and the Equal Status Act, states that the school development plan “must contain equality objectives and identify the steps that will be taken to achieve them.  It should be based on an identification of the educational needs of students across the Nine Grounds”.

All members of the St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. community (students, parents, teachers, ancillary staff and visitors to the school), are included within the scope of this document.  It centres on the nine grounds in which equality legislation prohibits discrimination and promotes equality.

The nine grounds of discrimination are: gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, membership of Traveller Community

Relating the Equality Policy to the Characteristic Spirit of St. Colmcille’s B.N.S.

St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. is committed to providing a caring learning environment which facilitates the nurturing of each pupil’s full educational potential.  Communication between home and school is a vital ingredient in this education process. Our school aims to be a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of its community.  This community is defined as the pupils, parents, teachers, ancillary staff and visitors to the school. Our school is open to positive reflections of diversity in its staff and pupil population, with its décor and activities making reference to cultural, racial, lingual and religious difference.

Aims of the Equality Policy of St. Colmcille’s B.N.S.

  • To ensure that St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. complies with legislative requirements and principles of good practice
  • That each person in our school feels valued and respected
  • To create an environment where diversity is valued
  • To award equal opportunities to all persons
  • To prepare our pupils for life in a multicultural society and with an understanding of the value of cultural diversity and pride in their own culture

Equality and the Enrolment Policy of St. Colmcille’s B.N.S.

Our school complies with the priority listing of national schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church.  Provision is made in this policy for children who are not Catholic or resident within the parish.  The enrolment form is sensitive to, and does not discriminate in, the areas of family, marital and residential status or sexual orientation of parents or guardians.  Pupils are placed in age-appropriate classes.

Advisory meetings and Open Days take place for parents of incoming junior infants.  A Booklet for Parents as well as information contained in each child’s homework journal outlines school procedures and responsibilities of parents, pupils and staff.  Relevant informational booklets are also available through the INTO, in other languages for non-English speaking families.  These are obtainable via the school.

Staff 

The Board of Management of St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. is an equal opportunities employer.  Procedures for the advertisement, selection and employment of staff are explicit and in accordance with the format as outlined in the CPSMA Board of Management and INTO handbook.

Our school has a Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying policy which is reviewed regularly.  In addition, St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. has policies on Sexual Harassment and Adult Bullying in the workplace.

Classes are allocated to teachers on an equitable basis, taking into account personal strengths and career development prospects.  Staff members are invited to discuss any relevant issues with the principal before yearly class allocation takes place.

Home School Liaison

St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. values positive and open communication between school and home.  Forms and procedures of communication are clearly outlined in the relevant section of theSchool Plan. In instances of separated and divorced parents, children’s progress is reported to a nominated person at the discretion of the pupil’s family.  Parents are welcome to meet with staff members by appointment, especially to facilitate one-to-one meetings that may benefit non-English speaking / reading parents.

The School Completion Programme Co-ordinator assists in integrating a new family into the community.  There is also a pastoral element to the work of all teachers, especially that of the Language Support staff.  Information regarding Adult Education courses, such as language classes, can be accessed through the Parents’ Association.  Currently, we have some multi-lingual notices in the school.  They are particularly used for greetings and during times of shared festivities.

The role and expectations of the school, the expected role of parents and other such related issues are explained to families in a number of ways.  There is a general meeting of with parents of incoming junior infants each year.  New families are provided with an Information Booklet on the school, and at the early stage of enquiry and enrolment, the Secretary discusses any issues of concern to parents. The annual parent-teacher meetings are a forum for parents and class teachers.  In addition, the language support teachers are available to meet individually with parents to assist with integration into the school community. In instances where parents have little or no English, pupils in senior classes, or older family members can be requested to provide translation services in meetings between teachers and parents. St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. is fully aware that parental expectations of children can vary, from family to family and across cultures.  Similarly, there are many different child-rearing practices in use.

Parental Involvement

Every parent of pupils in our school is automatically a member of the Parents’ Association.  Consequently the increasingly diverse background of our student population is reflected in the Parents’ Association.

Parental involvement in classroom activities is being actively promoted.  Attendance at class plays or performances has been positive, especially at junior level.  The school maintains a database of parents who have expressed interest in involvement with in-school paired reading programmes.  All parents are invited to participate in such endeavours and those parents who avail of the opportunity are appropriately trained for the work they will undertake.  For a number of years, the school has hosted a multi-cultural day, and parents have the opportunity to present samples of their national cuisine and dress. This initiative involves parent, pupils, teachers and ancillary staff.

Uniform

Parents are encouraged to donate old uniforms that are still in good condition to the school.  These are kept as a resource for parents who cannot acquire uniforms themselves. Monetary assistance is also available through the School Completion Programme and the Health Board.

Attendance

Through school newsletters and consultation with individual teachers, all parents are made aware of the Education Welfare Act (2000) and its implications.  When a pupil’s attendance causes concern, teachers bring this to the parents’ attention, and this communication continues.  The Education Welfare Board Officer is in regular contact with the School Completion Programme Co-ordinator, and either of these persons undertakes home visits as a means of providing support.

Parents are advised frequently, both verbally and through newsletters, that a pupil’s absence must be explained by written note or phone call from the parent / guardian to the school.  Where parents are not fluent in English, translators are used (sometimes siblings, family members or pupils) so that all issues relating to attendance are clearly emphasised.

The absence of a child for the purposes of participation in religious or cultural ceremonies that do not coincide with school holidays is recorded in documentation to the Education Welfare Board only in instances where the child’s general attendance is a concern.

Lunch

Our school Healthy Eating Policy promotes a nutritious and balanced diet. It is reviewed regularly to ensure that foods to which pupils are allergic, such as nut and egg, are forbidden. Pupils with dietary requirements e.g. diabetes are also accommodated.

Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying Policies

These policies are founded upon a respect for all members of the school community and are focussed on promoting positive behaviours and attitudes.  These policies are reviewed regularly.

Anti – Racism Charter

An Anti-Racism Charter for St. Colmcille’s B.N.S has been produced, and is displayed at the main entrance to the school.  Any breaches of the charter such as racist comments or incidents will be dealt with in the same manner as is done already in the school code of behaviour and anti-bullying code.  Such incidents are recorded in a number of ways depending on the severity of the breach.  These include:

    • Clip board
    • Serious Misbehaviour Book (located in Principal’s Office)
    • Incident Report Forms

St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. is committed to listening to and supporting equally all children, staff and parents when such incidents are reported.  Perpetrators of racist incidents will be dealt with in the same manner that would follow breaches of the Code of Behaviour and Anti-Bullying Code by explaining why such behaviour is unacceptable. Information packs with regard to exploring children’s rights are available from the special duties teacher with responsibility for SPHE.

Induction of New Pupils

If a pupil’s first day at our school occurs during term-time, class teachers prepare the class to welcome the new pupil.  Teachers appreciate communication with the parents of new pupils, as well as pupils themselves, in order to ease the transition to our school.  Equally, teachers benefit from as much prior knowledge as possible of the pupil’s school record to date. Such information is generally volunteered by the parents, and any other information, especially if of a sensitive nature, will be on a need-to-know basis.

Induction of New Staff

A welcoming and informative atmosphere awaits any new member of staff.  On commencing employment, staff members are given School Plan and other policy documents.  This is in addition to the discursive forum between existing and new members of staff.  Where new teachers are on probation, weekly meetings are held between them and the principal / deputy principal.

Homework

General guidelines are given in the School Plan for the assignment of homework at each class level.  Within this, teachers liaise with Learning Support and Resource Teachers with reference to children with special needs, to ensure a fair and broad balance of homework.   The child’s homework journal may be used as a means of communication between teacher and parent.

Resources

Our school recognises the value of diversity in books, visual images and internet resources and teachers endeavour to keep our supplies up to date and relevant to pupils’ needs.

Tours and School Organised Events

All pupils have equal opportunity to participate in school tours and school organised outings.  Teachers consider the cost and accessibility of school outings when choosing them.  If a pupil’s family does not have the means to enable the child to attend, the school is willing to contribute to such costs.

Staff Development

A review of whole school and in-class practices regarding equality is regularly undertaken and staff members are provided with up-to-date information on a steady basis.

Assessment

Standardised tests, teacher-based tests and informal assessment are used at each class level and recorded with a view to assist planning for the class’s subsequent teachers.  Such assessments are appropriately altered for children identified as having special needs, with the aim of assessing their work in accordance with their abilities. (See separate document on Special Needs)

Children for whom English is not their first-language attend language support for a maximum period of two years and detailed assessment and progress records are kept in this regard.

Co-curricular Activities

Every pupil is invited to participate in age-appropriate curricular and co-curricular activities as offered by our school.

Transition to Post Primary

All pupils are expected and therefore actively encouraged to strive towards a life-long love of learning.  Consequently, the student population are made aware of the importance of post-primary education.  At regular intervals by the use of newsletters and the school intercom, parents are alerted to procedures, application deadlines and requirements for the transition to post-primary school.

Curriculum

St. Colmcille’s B.N.S. is compliant with the aims, principles and features of the Primary Curriculum (1999).  This broad curriculum promotes a balance of knowledge, concepts and skills and takes into account individual difference.  It has a particular responsibility in promoting tolerance and respect for diversity in both the school and the community.  It equally recognises the diversity of beliefs, values and aspirations of all religious and cultural groups in society, while acknowledging the centrality of the Christian heritage and tradition in the Irish experience. (Primary School Curriculum: Introduction, p. 28) (Details with regard to procedures for pupils who are not Catholics are contained in the Religious Education policy document.)

The curriculum offers the school and the teacher a flexible framework through which the learning requirements of all children may be addressed.  It recognises the importance of providing appropriate support, in the form of human and physical resources, and of curriculum adaptation to schools to enable them to satisfy the needs of the children they serve. (Primary School Curriculum: Introduction, p. 28)

All children have a right of access to the highest-quality education appropriate to their needs.  It is important that a range of educational provision is available that is flexible enough to cater for the special needs of individual children at the various stages of their development.  (Primary School Curriculum: Introduction, p. 29). Specific guidelines on the implementation of each area of the curriculum can be found in the Curriculum Handbooks.

Success Criteria

The following criteria are used in the reviews of the success of this policy:

  • Awareness of language of rights, of concept of equality and justice
  • Reduction in incidents of bullying / racist incidents
  • Pupils having and using appropriate language
  • All pupils accessing and participating in all areas of the curriculum and school life at a level appropriate to their needs
  • Improvement in pupil attainment levels in curricular areas (especially literacy)
  • Parental satisfaction with the values being promoted in the school
  • Staff feeling they are valued

Roles and Responsibilities

The review and any subsequent amendments of this policy will be initially the responsibility of the relevant post-holder and sub-committee.

Ratification and Communication

The initial policy was communicated to all staff members on 27 January 2006.  It was given to the Parents’ Association and a newsletter also featured a notice of the availability of the draft policy on the school website.  The revised policy was ratified by the Board of Management on 6 March 2006, and published on the website on 8 March 2006.

Policy Review

The policy was reviewed at a Staff Meeting on 17 February 2011 and a Board of Management meeting on 28 March 2011. The revised policy will be uploaded on the website on 4 April 2011.