Teachers the subject of more than 500 abuse allegations
Nearly 1,700 child-protection concerns raised since 2010, mainly regarding primary schools
Teachers and principals are most likely to have been the subject of child-abuse allegations (31 per cent), followed by parents or childminders (26 per cent), students (24 per cent) and historic allegations account for 22 per cent. Photograph posed by model: iStock
Teachers and principals have been the subject of more than 500 allegations of abuse in recent years, according to internal figures.
Most of these concerns were reported to the Department of Education by other school staff or parents. The majority relate to primary schools.
All child-abuse allegations are passed on to Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) or the Garda under official procedures.
Almost 1,700 child-protection concerns have been reported to the department by its staff since it began compiling figures towards the end of 2010.
A breakdown of figures shows teachers and principals are most likely to have been the subject of concerns (31 per cent), followed by parents or childminders (26 per cent) and students (24 per cent). Historic or retrospective allegations – typically made by adults who say they were abused during childhood – account for 22 per cent.
Most of the allegations were first reported to psychologists employed by the National Education and Psychological Service, or to the department’s child protection unit.
Concerns reported by telephone have been recorded under different abuse or neglect categories in recent years. They show that sexual abuse was the most common concern reported (45 per cent), followed by physical abuse (24 per cent) and emotional abuse (21 per cent). Neglect concerns (10 per cent) accounted for the remainder of allegations.
Official figures do not show how many of these cases of alleged abuse were ultimately confirmed by Tusla.
These figures come as more than 32,000 teachers who qualified a decade or more ago face child-protection vetting checks by the Garda.
Until recently, only new teachers and those moving schools needed Garda clearance, which is administered by the Teaching Council.
However, new legislation will provide a legal basis for the retrospective vetting of all registered teachers. This means that thousands of teachers hired before 2006 – when vetting became mandatory for new applicants – face Garda checks for child-protection reasons. Those affected are typically permanent teachers who have been in the same school for the past decade or more.
The council, the regulatory body for the profession, says vetting will take place on a phased basis this year. Teachers who have not been vetted will have received a letter from the council or will do so in the coming months.
A breakdown of child-protection concerns reported to the department shows that some callers did not invoke child-protection procedures when they contacted the department, either because they did not wish to or did not indicate a desire to do so.
In these cases the department seeks the advice of Tusla on whether a child-protection investigation is warranted.
Since August 2011, some 275 cases have been sent to Tusla for advice. However, 79 of these were awaiting a reply. Of the remainder of cases, almost one in five were deemed to warrant an investigation.
A spokesman for Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the details of any concerns are immediately passed on to the relevant investigatory authorities.
He did not comment on the cases awaiting a reply, except to confirm that it has sought the agency’s advice on a regular basis relating to individual cases over recent years.