Special child protection inspections to begin at schools next month

Schools will normally receive 24-48 hours’ notice about the new inspections

“The new inspections will strengthen our child protection systems even more.” Photograph: Getty Images

“The new inspections will strengthen our child protection systems even more.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

Department of Education inspectors will carry out special child protection inspections of schools from next month under additional safeguards introduced by the Government to protect children in schools.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has announced that the new child protection and safeguarding inspections will be carried out in a sample of schools around the country every year.

“These focused and in-depth inspections will look at how school boards and staff are fulfilling their legal responsibilities in relation to the protection and safeguarding of our children,” said Mr McHugh.

Schools will normally receive 24-48 hours’ notice that they are going to be inspected but the department’s inspectorate reserves the right to inspect a school without notice.

Each school selected will be subjected to two inspections, an initial and final inspection, usually within four to six weeks of each other, the department said. The two inspections are intended to assure parents, the public and the department that any weaknesses identified initially will be addressed by the final inspection.

Inspectors will ask primary school pupils about their understanding of social personal and health education, while post-primary students will be asked about this along with relationship and sexuality education.

The written consent of parents and of post-primary students will be sought in advance of the students participating in focus groups with the inspectors.

The Government introduced new child protection procedures in primary and secondary schools in December 2017 and matched them to changes to inspection arrangements last year.

“The new inspections will strengthen our child protection systems even more,” said Mr McHugh. “They will provide another level of reassurance and they will help to guide and direct schools in relation to meeting their child protection obligations.”

Department inspectors will provide regional seminars on the new inspections over the coming weeks and will plan further briefings on the new inspections during May and June 2019.

Inspectors will ask parents to complete an online survey in the initial inspection to explore the school climate and their awareness of the school’s child protection procedures and the school’s anti-bullying procedures.

The inspectors will meet a school’s parents’ association in the final inspection. Meetings will be held with the liaison person in the school, the chairperson of the board of management and a sample of school teachers.