Breathnach says she will consult on appeal system


THE Minister for Education, Ms Breathnach, has promised that she will consult parents, teachers and school managers before framing regulations to govern the appeal procedures laid down in the Education Bill.

Both the Irish National Teachers Organisation and the Teachers Union of Ireland expressed renewed concern yesterday about the Bill's provision to allow parents and students over 16 to appeal school decisions which seriously affect a student's education to a regional education board.

The INTO general secretary, Mr Joe O'Toole, had raised with the Department the lack of definition of the issues which could be dealt with by these procedures. He had suggested that their definition should cover specific issues like expulsions and discipline. At the same time regulations should be drawn up, in consultation with the unions, for a proper complaints procedure in which teachers could have confidence.

The TUI education officer, Ms Rose Malone, said her union would seek amendment of the clause which appeared to put responsibility for a decision "materially" affecting a student's education - and which thus could be the subject of an appeal - onto the teacher. She said it was the school, and not the individual teacher, which could redress a student's grievance.

In a statement, the Minister said the Bill's appeals process would not replace "existing procedures in schools for the resolution of problems. It will be additional to current procedures." It would include safeguards against frivolous or mischievous appeals".

She went on: "At present the vast majority of problems in schools are solved without even going to the board of management. This will not change. Under the Bill, the appeals system will only be used when a serious matter affecting a student is not, resolved at principal or even at board of management level."

In a separate statement, Ms Breathnach called Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats' reaction to the Education Bill "small minded and begrudging".

She said that in calling for non statutory county based education committees, Fianna Fail education spokesman Mr Micheal Martin was "perpetuating the unusual feature of the Irish education system, and that is that it has run for 130 years by little more than ministerial circulars and regulations, and without any statutory framework - a most unique situation for a western democracy".

The education boards would "not take money from schools". On the boards' establishment, some of the Department's more than £30 million administrative budget would be spent regionally rather than centrally.