Wednesday 17 July 2019

Schools facing double inspections over new sex education classes

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Schools are now undergoing double inspections, weeks apart, to ensure that they are living up to their responsibilities in areas such as child protection and the delivery of sex education classes.

Reports from the first 11 schools to go through the specialised Department of Education inspections show how the checks brought about a rapid sharpening up in school practices, where necessary.

One element of the in-depth inspections looks at how boards of management and school staff are fulfilling their responsibilities in relation to child protection procedures introduced for schools in 2017.

These include obligations around recording and reporting concerns, both internally and to the child and family agency, Tusla, where appropriate. Such concerns could include allegations of abuse against employees, bullying and other child welfare issues.

The other focus is on whether and how well a school is implementing the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum and the Stay Safe and Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) programmes.

Initial inspections, conducted in March, found shortcomings at some of the schools, most of which were addressed by the time of the follow-up visits in April or May.

The department has issued both the initial and final reports for each school and they are posted on its website.

In the initial inspections, not all schools were found to be compliant with the 2017 child protection procedures, but, by the time of the final inspection, almost all schools were ticking all the boxes.

Inspectors noted that SPHE and Stay Safe were being implemented in all of the primary schools in the initial inspections, although in some cases they offered advice about improving delivery or updating policies.

There were gaps in the provision of SPHE and RSE in some post-primary schools on the first visits, which were being addressed by the time of the second inspections.

Normally, a school will receive between 24 hours' and 48 hours' notice of a child protection inspection, but the inspectorate reserves the right to conduct inspections without any notice.

Education Minister Joe McHugh said the inspections were designed to strengthen child protection systems and guide and direct schools in relation to meeting their child protection obligations.

He said having a follow-up inspection within a relatively short period of time promoted improvement in the implementation of child protection procedures.

Irish Independent

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