One-third of schools reviewed had very robust systems to ensure they focused on student safety as part of their employment practices. However, it is concerning that another third of schools may not be able to recognise or respond to occasions when students may be at risk of abuse by staff. The remaining third had some robust practices but had policy, procedures or management gaps in one of the four employment areas ERO investigated.
Our education system must provide the utmost protection for every child and young person in every school. It is vital that every board ensures the students in its care are safe when recruiting and managing staff.
Two principles that should guide boards when reviewing and improving their policies and practices are:
Boards need to demand a commitment to all students’ safety from school staff and the education agencies they are reliant on for support. Education agencies are there to support schools to put these principles into practice. These agencies have produced many resources to guide school practices. However, agencies should align the resources in a way that gives coherent and consistent information to boards and is easy to access.
Legislation and regulations are also there to support school policies and practices. The Vulnerable Children’s Bill's suggestion of changes to vetting and screening is in response to the same reports that were the impetus for this review. ERO suggests that the legislation for boards’ responsibilities about teacher serious misconduct also needs reviewing as it appears that there are times when the Teachers Council is not informed about such misconduct. Schools and their advisors need to put the safety of students first when dealing with teacher misconduct.