Thursday, 25 May 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
11. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to amend section 29 of the Education Act 1998 in relation to school expulsions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19892/06]
13. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in addition to amending section 29 of the Education Act 1998, any further aspect of the legislation will be amended; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19868/06]
In January 2005 I established the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools. The balancing of rights in Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 was acknowledged by the Task Force as one of the areas which prompted many submissions. While highlighting the fact that the majority of section 29 suspensions and expulsions are going in favour of schools, the Task Force report recommended that the legislation be amended to strike a better balance between the rights of the disruptive student and those of his/her peers to an education. It also recommended that the timeframe involved in these appeals be examined.
With a view to taking account of these recommendations, the Deputy will be aware that an Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has been included in the Government’s Legislation Programme. This will be a focused piece of legislation the principal purpose of which will be to amend section 29 of the Education Act.
I believe that all students have the right to learn and every teacher has the right to teach in a positive environment. To this end, immediately after receiving the report of the Task Force, I announced a series of measures to promote positive behaviour in our second level schools, of which amending the legislation is just one.
Staff, including psychologists, are currently being recruited for these teams and they will be in place from the start of the next school year. They will look at every aspect of the school from the type of community it is serving, to the effectiveness of the code of behaviour, the appropriateness of the curriculum and the level of engagement with parents. They will bring with them an awareness of the strategies that have helped schools facing similar challenges to maintain a positive climate.
The team will be able to identify schools which would benefit from having ’behaviour support classrooms’ where students who are seriously misbehaving will be taught in small groups until they are ready to return to the classroom. The emphasis in the special support rooms will be on finding out why students are misbehaving and helping them to change.
Apart from the Behaviour Support Service, there will also be training for teachers that are having difficulties maintaining good behaviour in their classrooms and an increased availability of alternative programmes to the standard Junior and Leaving Cert exams which are more practical and of more interest to some students than the traditional exam routes. The availability of alternative programmes outside the school system such as Youthreach is also being reviewed.
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