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1,500 complaints about schools in just 18 months

MORE than 1,500 complaints were made to the Department of Education about teachers and schools in 18 months, new figures show.

However, not one of these allegations -- no matter how serious -- was investigated by the department as it is not empowered to do so.

Figures released to the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act show a total of 906 complaints were made by parents last year.

And, up to the end of June this year, the amount had reached 572 for 2010.


Of the complaints made in 2009, 83 were in writing and 823 were by telephone.

Some 97 were against teachers and 589 were against school procedures, while the rest were of "another nature".

In relation to last year's figures, 197 complaints were made against principals and 207 were about teachers.

The department said "all calls and written correspondence" to its schools' division "are logged".

"Our practice is not to prompt parents into channelling their concern, query or complaint under particular headings or category but our experience is that a parent's query/complaint can come under more than one category."

The department said: "Our section does not pass judgment on the nature of the parent's complaints, nor do we have the powers to investigate their complaint. However, we do provide guidance to parents on how to get redress for their complaint."

The Herald requested the details of each complaint and the schools they related to but the department did not provide this information.

Parents were directed towards the schools' boards of management in order for them to pursue their complaint.

The Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan recently expressed concern at the lack of any framework to deal with "professional conduct issues" among teachers when issues about discipline and how they spoke to and treated children were raised.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan said in May the handling of bullying complaints remained a matter to be dealt with by school authorities rather than a State role.

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing the boards of more than half the country's 730 second-level schools, said bullying has always been a problem. It acknowledged new technology meant greater vigilance was needed.


Up to the end of April, the Department of Education had received 160 complaints or queries from parents about the issues of bullying in schools.

The department pointed out that parents may often be seeking its guidance "on how to resolve an issue or an alleged incident within the school" and that not every contact from a parent can be classified as a complaint.