Schools must notify social services on reduced timetables from January

Guidelines say use of shortened school days should only occur when absolutely necessary

All schools will be required to notify social services when they place a child on a reduced school day from January next year. Photograph: iStock

All schools will be required to notify social services when they place a child on a reduced school day from January next year. Photograph: iStock

 

All schools will be required to notify social services when they place a child on a reduced school day from January next year.

The Department of Education has published new guidelines on the controversial use of shortened school days.

Campaigners say many vulnerable students – such as those with special needs or Traveller children – are regularly placed on reduced timetables as short as one hour a day in order to manage behaviour.

Schools, on the other hand, say they do not have the resources to support the sometimes complex needs of vulnerable children.

The new guidelines state that all schools are now required to review arrangements for any pupils currently on reduced school days, and plan to ensure that the school authorities are in a position to comply with the terms of the guidelines with effect from January 1st 2022.

The guidelines aim to ensure that the use of reduced school days is limited solely to those circumstances where it is absolutely necessary.

Under the rules, the consent of the parents is required prior to implementation of a reduced day.

A reduced school day should last only as long as is needed to facilitate a return to school on a full-time basis.

From January next year, Tusla will record and monitor the use of reduced school days and subsequently provide reports to the department.

The department says information gathered will inform future policy development in this area and the guidelines will be subject to review.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said: “These guidelines on reduced school days are an important step in supporting schools, parents and students to ensure reduced school days are used as intended, as an exceptional measure, in exceptional circumstances, and that the focus is always on return to full time schooling as quickly as possible.

“It will ensure the use of reduced school days is reported, and that in the rare circumstances where they are used, schools follow best practice with the interests of the learner to the fore.”

The Children’s Rights Alliance, which has been campaigning to limit the practice, said it was delighted that the guidelines were finally published.

“It has been a long time coming and addresses one of the most serious children’s rights issues in education in Ireland, ” said the alliance’s chief executive, Tanya Ward.

“This is an important first step in addressing this critical issue and providing a consistent approach.”

She said implementation was key and Government must go one step further and engage with principals, teachers and support staff about what they need to respond to the diverse needs of children and young people.