Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
53. Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science further to parliamentary Question No. 27 of 26 February 2009, the reason his Department only understands that student councils have been established in the majority of post primary schools and that the remaining schools are in the process of establishing councils and cannot say with certainty what the current situation is; the reason the name of each post primary school which has established a student council is not readily available; if his Department will conduct an audit of schools to ascertain this information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12236/09]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): The Education Act, 1998 provides for the establishment of student councils, intending them to play an integral and important role in the post-primary school community. Student councils provide a representative structure through which students can debate issues of concern and undertake initiatives of benefit to the school and the wider community.
Section 27 of the Education Act, 1998 provides that students of post-primary schools may establish a student council. It also provides that the board of management shall encourage the establishment by students of a student council; and shall facilitate and give all reasonable assistance to students who wish to establish a student council and to student councils when they have been established. A board of management of a post-primary school is required to draw up rules for the establishment of a student council, including the election of members and the dissolution of a council, in accordance with the 2002 ministerial guidelines on the establishment and operation of student councils, ‘Student Councils: A Voice for Students’.
An Assistant National Co-ordinator with responsibility for student councils was appointed to the Second Level Support Service in 2007. This co-ordinator has designed and is delivering a programme of professional development to respond to the identified needs and to support teachers with establishing student councils in their schools. In addition, this co-ordinator can provide support to all of the students in a school prior to establishing its student council and to the students on the council, following their election.
As part of Whole School Inspection, the Inspectorate engages with the student council of the school and where there is no council they recommend that a council should be established. Information on the establishment of a student council is available on a school by school basis from the school’s inspection reports.
Both the work of the Inspectorate and the National Co-ordinator provide valuable information to my Department in relation to the establishment of student councils across post primary schools. My Department understands that student councils have been established in the majority of post-primary schools and that the remaining schools are in the process of establishing councils. As there is no mandatory requirement on schools to establish student councils, I have no plans to conduct an audit in this area. I consider that the best use of resources at this time is to support the establishment and performance of student councils.
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