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Ombudsman for Children hopeful that specialised child protection inspections in schools will address issues raised in complaints

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has today (Monday 21st), welcomed the announcement by Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh of a new approach to inspecting child protection in schools.

“These new inspections are one of a number of improvements outlined by the Department to my office in response to an investigation I initiated in 2016 due to my concerns about the oversight of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) on the implementation of child protection procedures in primary and post primary schools.

“Children and young people spend a huge amount of time in school. It is essential that they feel safe and secure while they are there, and that if the school becomes aware of child protection issues of any kind, these are raised and dealt with swiftly and effectively.

“The vast majority of our schools rightly prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children and are meticulous in ensuring procedures are followed when there are child protection concerns. However, over the past number of years we also received complaints from parents which highlighted a lack of clarity as regards the role of principals, boards of management, patrons and the DES in ensuring procedures are followed when concerns are raised.

“I believed there was a need for greater oversight within school communities to ensure child protection procedures were fully implemented. I was also not satisfied that the inspection methods in place were sufficiently robust or that the monitoring mechanisms in place within the DES were effective enough to hold schools to account for their failings in this area. In the Ombudsman for Children’s Office we try to address issues that arise as quickly as we can in the best interests of children. Sometimes however, we come across a larger systemic issue that has the potential to effect more than just one child, in this case it was thousands.

“Over the past year we have worked closely with the DES and I very much welcome some of key changes introduced to address the issues we raised. There is now enhanced reporting and oversight by principals, boards of management and patrons of schools to ensure compliance with child protection procedures; formal liaison between DES and Tusla at a national level; a new Child Protection Oversight Group has been established within the DES and of course, the new Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspection Model announced today.

“Following extensive engagement with the DES I discontinued this investigation due to the commitments made and actions taken to address this very serious issue. As an independent office which promotes the rights and welfare of children, I recognise that negotiations with Government bodies is sometimes required to affect a systemic change at a national level and on this occasion I am pleased to say that it has resulted in a positive outcome.

“Therefore I very much welcome the announcement from Minister McHugh that specialised child protection inspections will commence in schools to protect our children and to ensure that best practise is adhered to. I also welcome the support and commitments from all of the education partners to this new model as it clearly demonstrates that child protection is a priority for everyone. I am hopeful that the new specialised inspections will address many of the issues we have raised and will monitor this closely to ensure it achieves its desired outcomes for children in our schools.”


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.

Aoife Carragher

Communications Manager
Ombudsman for Children’s Office
01 865 6806