New legislation will allow parents to pursue grievances against schools
PARENTS with a complaint about their child's school may soon be able to pursue their grievance with the backing of legislation.
A statutory complaint procedure is under consideration in the Department of Education as part of a wider move to strengthen parents' rights.
Current education legislation includes a section which provides for procedures to deal with complaints and grievances of parents and students but it was never formally adopted.
At the moment, if a parent has a complaint, the most the department can do is advise them to contact the board of management. It has no power beyond that.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is now considering a parents' charter, to strengthen the relationships between parents and schools and to set out the rights of parents, underpinned by legislation. He believes there is a need to look at how a stronger culture of valuing parental involvement in the level of each individual school can be created.
While Mr Quinn is looking at the possibility of introducing a statutory complaints process, he says the stronger the culture of valuing parents at the level of each individual school, the less need there should be for grievance procedures.
Mr Quinn was due to set out his ideas today at the annual conference of the National Parents Council Primary (NPC-P).
According to the NPC-P, research indicates that all types of parental involvement in education has a positive impact on children's educational outcomes.
The council says research also strongly indicates that the most effective forms of parental involvement are those which engage parents in working directly with their children on learning activities in the home.
The conference, which involves parents' representatives from Ireland and Europe, will explore new ways to ensure parents are better involved with their children's educational lives.
It is especially timely following the release this week of a study by the Education Research Centre, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, on life and learning for 10-year-old pupils in Ireland, and how it compares with the rest of the world. Among the findings were that teachers here were well below average in the frequency with which they met parents to discuss their child's progress.
The report also found children, and especially boys, were less inclined to like, or feel they belong, in school.
Parents and families are key to a sense of a child's belonging and research shows that children do better when parents are involved.