Dáil Éireann - Volume 630 - 31 January, 2007
Written Answers. - School Discipline.
Mr. Crowe Mr. Crowe
Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will put the necessary resources in place to fully implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Behaviour. [1093/07]
Mr. Crowe Mr. Crowe
Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will propose new measures to tackle pupil misbehaviour in view of recent TUI research that found that one in five teachers reported unacceptable threatening and intimidating behaviour by students on a weekly basis. [2074/07]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1453 and 1648 together.
In early 2006, I announced an implementation strategy following publication of “School Matters” the Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools, and that strategy is now well advanced.
At the core of the recommendations of the Task Force was the putting in place of a National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS). This has now happened with the appointment of a National Co-ordinator and four Assistant National Co-ordinators. In addition, nine Regional Development Officers and twenty part-time Associates have been recruited to ensure the success of this significant initiative. A key feature of the composition of the National Behaviour Support Service is the assignment to it of a senior psychologist and three psychologists. These have been seconded from the National Educational Psychological Service and their presence will ensure that the team operates in a multi-disciplinary way. A full-time administrator is based in Navan Education Centre.
Since their appointment, the team has been working on a number of key issues:
1. The development of a Draft National Framework for Behaviour Improvement.
2. The development of models of good practice for systems in schools which assist with and  impact on classroom and whole school behaviour.
3. On-going training for the NBSS team.
4. Research into and communication with behaviour support systems in other jurisdictions.
In 2007 Estimates, I am providing €8 million to support the work of the NBSS, in helping schools promote positive student behaviour at second level.
My Department has issued guidelines to the Management Authorities of second level schools on meeting their obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to ensure the safety and health of their employees.
As in other workplaces, staff in second level schools may be victims of violent or intimidating behaviour. During the course of their work, school staff may be at risk in the form of verbal abuse, threats, assaults or other forms of intimidation. This behaviour may come from pupils, parents, guardians, other staff members or visitors.
While it may not be possible to prevent all such incidents, effective school policies concerning a range of issues can have a positive effect in reducing the risk of such incidents occurring and to minimise their consequences. The close interaction of the school management with staff and parents in developing effective school policies on school discipline, bullying and health and safety contributes to a positive school environment where mutual respect, co-operation and natural justice are accepted features of the school community by all.
School Management Authorities are responsible for ensuring that a fair and efficient code of behaviour, encompassing rules, sanctions and procedures, is drawn up and applied in the school. The Code should be developed by the Principal and the staff in consultation with parents and approved by the School Management Authority. Parents should be circularised regarding the Code when it is finalised.
This Code should have as its aim the maintenance of desirable standards of behaviour, particularly in fostering understanding and co-operation between teachers, pupils and parents in helping schools to adapt to the needs of its students while establishing the basis for responsible actions by its students and observing the principles of natural justice. Any sanction imposed on a pupil should be in accordance with the Code of Discipline. Procedures for suspending pupils should be clearly set out in the school’s Code of Discipline and should be adhered to. Aggressive, threatening or violent behaviour towards a teacher is regarded as serious or gross misbehaviour and may warrant suspension.
The National Educational Welfare Board is currently working on revised Guidelines for  Developing School Codes of Behaviour. This work is on-going and I expect that the revised Guidelines will be available later this year.
The Health and Safety Authority has also issued a Code of Practice on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying. It defines workplace bullying as repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but as a once off incident is not considered to be bullying.
As a supportive resource, teachers can now access an Employee Assistance Service (EAS) specifically tailored to meet their particular needs. The EAS now available to teachers throughout the country is designed to support the health and well-being of teachers which will in turn positively affect work quality and performance. The service will incorporate confidential counselling on issues such as health, relationships, addictions, bereavement, stress, conflict, critical incident and trauma.
Services include, single session or short term structured telephone counselling, face to face short term confidential counselling as well as critical incident debriefing. These services are intended to assist individual teachers and school communities to increase psychological resilience, improve communication, develop positive work relationships and enhance well-being.
Dáil Éireann 630 Written Answers. School Discipline.