“The education sector must be sufficiently agile to adapt to the individual needs of each child”, says Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, speaking following the launch of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), Education In Focus report.
“Ireland has a well-deserved reputation for the high quality education system it offers our young people”, says Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon. The majority of children find it works well for them and that they can navigate the system easily. However, providing an education structure that works for the minority who have differing needs, has been a key difficulty identified through the thousands of complaints the Office has received over the years.
The Education In Focus report outlines some of the work the Office has done in the area of education, it details a number of education complaints received and offers the opportunity to take a long-term view of some of the systemic issues identified and pursued in the area of education.
“We can see clearly the changes that have taken place in the education sector, some problems that exist and how good practice can make a real difference for children and their families. Over the years we have identified particular problems in accessing adequate education supports for children with disabilities and children in care. We have also seen the impact that the actions of schools can have, in determining whether or not students receive the supports they need”, continues Ombudsman Muldoon.
Since 2010, this Office has handled 3,148 complaints about schools. Some cases outlined in the Education In Focus report show examples of very good practice and positive changes made by the Department of Education and Skills in light of recommendations from the Office. Others identify areas for improvement, mostly relating to communication and transparency.
In 2015, 45% of the 1,649 complaints received at the OCO related to education. This is very much in keeping with previous years. In addition to the work on complaints the OCO also welcomes approximately 1,000 children and young people into the office each year to learn about their rights, and interacts with thousands of schools and teachers across the country.
The OCO is also mandated to oversee the legislation and policies relating to children and has made a number of submissions to Government, including the Education (Admissions) to School Bill 2016, the Action Plan on Education (2016) and others.
It is important that children receive education and supports that meet their needs at different times of their lives. This requires an education system to be flexible in taking a child centred, individual approach where necessary.
As children’s rights become more and more embedded in the way Government works, it is vital that the education system continues to adapt and grow to allow for the greater variety of issues arising for children. This Office will continue to maintain an oversight role while also working closely with the Department of Education and Skills to ensure the best interest of each child is to the fore.
Source: Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Ireland