Report outlines discipline problem in schools

 

The scale of the growing discipline problem in Irish second-level schools is to be outlined in a major new report to be launched by the Minister for Education tomorrow.

Just weeks after thousands of Leaving Certificate students finished their State exams, the interim report of the task force on student behaviour at second-level is expected to highlight the continued disciplinary difficulties faced by their teachers and schools.

But it is understood the interim report may not advocate changes to the existing legislation, including Section 29 of the Education Act, which governs appeals.

This is despite claims from teaching unions and school managers that this legislation is tilted in favour of unruly pupils, and is thought to be because such a recommendation is outside the task force's remit.

However, the preliminary report of the task force - which is expected to make final recommendations by the end of the year - is expected to acknowledge the impact of existing legislation.

Previously, school managers have claimed that the majority of students who are expelled or suspended from schools are using this legislation to successfully appeal the decision.

However, the number of students being returned to school following a successful appeal has fallen significantly this year, partly because schools are correctly observing due process in the processing of such appeals.

Among the other issues which the report is expected to underline are:

The fact that while only a small minority of students engage in serious indiscipline, the frequency and severity of such incidents has increased.

Parents are less willing to accept the sanctions imposed on students, meaning such sanctions are increasingly open to challenge. This has led to a strong perception among teachers that the number of problems they face have increased.

The interim report, which will be launched by Ms Hanafin in the Department of Education's Dublin offices tomorrow, had been expected to make a number of fresh recommendations

However, some sources last night suggested the preliminary report will instead emphasise several previous proposals, such as the development of a strong leadership team in schools, good partnerships with parents and guardians, and the promotion of good classroom management skills.

In oral and written presentations to the task force earlier this year, teacher unions and school management bodies such as the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), the ASTI and the TUI proposed a number of measures.

These included a review of the operation of the Section 29 appeals process, and a reduction in class sizes.