Schools to be forced to provide performance updates to parents
New Bill could also see secondary pupils becoming members of boards of management
Schools will be obliged to provide performance updates to parents and students for the first time under a new legally enforceable charter.
The measure is contained in a new Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill due to be published over the coming weeks.
The Irish Times understands that all schools will be required by law to have a parent and student charter based on key guidelines set out by the Minister for Education.
These charters will aim to strengthen the way parents and students are consulted over the running of schools and to provide more transparent ways of handling complaints.
Consideration will be given to including secondary students on school boards of management for the first time.
In addition, schools will be required to inform parents and students about their performance in teaching and learning, as well as acknowledging any “gaps, deficiencies or room for improvement”.
Schools will also be required to provide information on the number of complaints made against it and to publish the number of cases where grievances were accepted or upheld.
Until now, the Minister for Education has had little or no role in handling complaints about a school or decisions made by a board of management.
The new legislation, however, will give the Minister powers to direct school boards of management to draw up parents and student charters and to comply with published guidelines.
The Ombudsman for Children will also have greater powers to investigate complaints made against schools even when they are still under consideration.
In addition, the Minister may direct schools to comply with guidance or recommendations made by the ombudsman.
This appears to be a modification of a Bill proposed by Fine Gael TD Jim Daly and accepted by the Government earlier this year which sought to establish a separate ombudsman for education, who would have powers to investigate grievances against schools.
Approved by Cabinet
The heads of the Bill were approved by the Cabinet recently and are due to be published soon by Minister for Education Richard Bruton.
The overall approach is to shift away from reacting to problems in schools once they have escalated into grievances.
Instead, the emphasis will be on improving the day-to-day experiences of students and what their parents can expect from schools.
This will be done by setting out in law the principles or guidelines that schools must apply in their engagement with students and parents.
It means a departure from complaint processes used at present in schools, particularly those relating to teachers’ behaviour or performance.
Education sources say these procedures are considered unduly adversarial as they require parents to act as a prosecutor and require a significant burden of proof.
Under the new proposals, schools would be obliged to set out how they handle complaints, show how issues have been handled and provide reasons for why decisions are made.
At primary level, age-appropriate consultation with students will be encouraged, while at second-level the full or partial involvement of students in boards of management will be considered.