Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
Joe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
The Bill explicitly emphasises the need for early resolution. This is also not about reinventing the wheel. Many schools already engage in early resolution really well. They have their own policies in the form of their own individual charters. Each school has good practice, a good track record and good experience in ensuring issues can be addressed early before they become potentially unresolvable. In that regard, a central aim of this Bill is to ensure concerns of students or their parents are resolved quickly and informally without recourse to any formal complaints mechanism. This is clear from the explicit requirement in the Bill for the Minister to have regard for the need for schools to address and resolve concerns insofar as possible at an early stage.
The Bill's approach is that concerns must be raised initially in an informal manner with the school or relevant teacher and that they should be dealt with early and without recourse to any formal grievance or complaints procedure. Concerns, therefore, will continue to be addressed initially in this informal and practical manner by schools. However, the Bill recognises the reality that not all concerns will be resolved in this way and it therefore provides for standardised procedures to be put in place to deal with concerns that are not resolved early, for whatever reason. Accordingly, the Bill broadly envisages a two-stage approach. First, concerns are initially to be raised and dealt with informally and as early as possible. The majority of issues should be and will continue to be dealt with in this way. Second, where it is not possible to resolve an issue in this way, a grievance may be raised and dealt with through the standardised grievance procedures. The clear distinction in the Bill between initial concerns that are dealt with informally and quickly and grievances that fall to be dealt with under the grievance procedure is important and reflects the Bill's staged approach to dealing with issues.The group of amendments proposed by the Senator would conflate these separate concepts and would not work in the context of the various other provisions in the Bill. For these reasons, I cannot accept them.
I assure the Senator and the House that common sense will prevail. Quickly identifying a problem at the beginning before it becomes unresolvable will continue to be at the heart of the Bill.