Sunday 20 October 2019

Schools to be required to notify Tusla over use of reduced timetables

Education Minister Joe McHugh is inviting views on a new set of guidelines over the use of reduced timetables

Schools are going to be required to notify Tusla over the use of reduced timetables. (PA Archives)
Schools are going to be required to notify Tusla over the use of reduced timetables. (PA Archives)

By Rebecca Black, PA

Schools are set to be required to formally notify Tusla over the use of reduced timetables.

The move, announced by the Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh on Monday, comes after concern around the use of reduced timetables.

The practice entails a school reducing a child’s access to the school to just a few hours or less each day.

Discussions on the issue have been ongoing over recent months between the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and Tusla Educational Welfare Service, around monitoring of reduced timetables.

Proposed guidelines have been drafted around reduced timetables to set out the procedures to be followed by schools where such an option is being considered and used.

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

The draft guidelines are underpinned by the principles that a reduced timetable should not be used as a sanction or as a behavioural management tool; that it should be applied proportionately and should last only as long as is necessary to facilitate a return to school on a full-time basis.

Mr McHugh said reduced timetables should only be used in exceptional circumstances.

“Inclusion is central to this Government’s education policy and it is essential that all pupils who are enrolled in a school should attend for the full day unless in exceptional circumstances,” he said.

“A reduced timetable is not in any way a standard aspect of a child’s experience of school and must not be allowed to become such; it should be an exceptional measure.

“It has to be accepted that in some cases it may be necessary to use a reduced timetable, for example, as a means of assisting the reintegration of a pupil to a school routine, but such arrangements must only be put adopted in limited and time bound circumstances.

“The best interests of the child, their education and their development, should be paramount in any decision making by schools.”

The department is inviting observations from education stakeholders until October 18.

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