Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Education (Student and Parent Charter) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 7, after line 42, to insert the following:“or
(c) is so advised by the Ombudsman for Children under subsection (13).”.
I am tabling amendments Nos. 10 and 13 on foot of comments I made on Second Stage on an envisioned expansion of the role of the Ombudsman for Children and how such a provision was included in the heads of this Bill sent to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills for pre-legislative scrutiny before being dropped from the Bill, as initiated, in the Seanad. As I mentioned in the last debate, the committee agreed to support the Government legislation over a Private Members' Bill from Deputy Daly because of the strengthening of the role of the Ombudsman for Children proposed in the heads of the Bill. It is a significant altering of the statutory provisions of this Bill that they were dropped and as far as I can tell, no substantive explanation has been offered by the Minister for their removal. I have therefore tabled an adapted version of head 6 of the general scheme of the Bill to section 27D for inclusion in the Bill to reflect the important provision that was dropped. Amendment No. 10 allows for the Minister to make directions on foot of recommendations from the ombudsman and amendment No. 13 is a substantive provision that largely reflects the head that has been dropped since pre-legislative scrutiny. It would require boards of management of schools to consider any recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Children during an investigation of the actions of a school by the ombudsman. It would also allow the Minister to issue direction to said board to address the matters raised by the ombudsman. Without such a provision, a board of management is under no obligation to take heed of the Ombudsman for Children or engage with it at all. The amendment would also allow for the Minister to issue a direction where he or she agrees with the comments of the ombudsman. This gives the office of the ombudsman real teeth in how it deals with and investigates schools, while still leaving the power to give directions within the political realm, preserving the independence and impartiality of the office of the ombudsman. This was an important part of the general scheme that was debated under pre-legislative scrutiny in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills and it is not right for it to be dropped without a full and adequate explanation. I hope the Minister can accept the amendment.