Education (Welfare) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012: Second Stage

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. Before discussing it, we must acknowledge the work that has been done for children during this Government’s term of office. There was the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the referendum on children’s rights and the drafting of the action plan by the anti-bullying working group. Much work is being done in this area, and that will continue throughout the Government’s term of office.

I was a member of a board of management, so I have concerns about the Bill. It is not practical or workable. One person is required to report on one working day while another person is required to report on another working day. If a person does not follow these protocols, what are the implications for the volunteers involved? Section 14(7) of the Education Act 1998 means that they might not be protected and the volunteers could find themselves being sued. That would be an intolerable situation and cannot be allowed to happen. We are not running an army in this case, just a school.

The executive functions provided for in the Bill would be functions for the teachers, but we have not discussed them with the teachers. It would be unfair to foist this on teachers without discussing it. A little more thought is required. It is a very important issue. This morning, for example, there was name calling in this House. In my view name calling is a form of bullying. Strangely, it came from the other side of the House. There is a certain element of “do as I say, not as I do”. We need to be cognisant of what we say here. I agree with Deputy McLoughlin on social media. We could spend hours going through this debate and the implications of what is happening, but we do not.