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Ombudsman for Children expresses concern at inappropriate use of reduced timetables in schools

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills on Thursday 13th June where he will express his concern at the inappropriate use of reduced timetables in schools.

Speaking ahead of his appearance before the Committee Niall said:

“I am concerned about what I consider to be the inappropriate use of reduced timetables as an informal suspension to deal with behaviour that a school is finding difficult to manage in the classroom.

“At the moment the use of reduced timetables is invisible. There are no guidelines on its use, no guidance on recording its use and no external monitoring. Therefore there is no oversight of its use in individual schools.

“Anecdotal evidence would suggest that some cohorts of children including children with disabilities, children with emotional and behavioural difficulties or children from a different cultural background such the Traveller or Roma communities, are being disproportionately affected by the use of reduced timetables. With the current system it is impossible to determine if this is the case and to what extent these groups are being affected.

“It is important to highlight that reduced timetables are used as a positive intervention in exceptional circumstances to support children at a particularly difficult time when a full day at school may be an insurmountable challenge. This can be seen as a child-centred practice used to facilitate a child’s education until they are able to return to school full time.

“However, even in these circumstances safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that the use of a reduced timetable is time-limited, in the best interests of the child and put in place without putting any pressure on the child’s parents or guardian.

“I believe that Government should provide a statutory framework on the use of reduced timetables and that this practice should be monitored nationally to gather data. Where reduced timetables are being used inappropriately increased resources should be provided to the relevant bodies including the Educational Welfare Services (EWS), the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS).

“The prolonged use of reduced timetables as an exclusionary measure on children can have a serious and long-lasting impact. It may make them feel unwanted by the school community, they may be perceived as different by their peers, they may stop seeing school as a positive place and they may even drop out of school. It can also be very disruptive for family life. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed for the benefit of children and for schools.”

ENDS

 

Note to Editors

  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is an independent statutory body with an overall mandate to promote the rights and welfare of children under the age of 18 living in Ireland.
  • Among the Ombudsman for Children’s core statutory functions is the independent and impartial investigation of complaints made by, or on behalf of, children in relation to public bodies, as well as organisations providing services on behalf of the State.