Under Section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 the board of management of each school, following consultation with the principal, teachers and parents, must prepare and make available a code of behaviour for its students. The Act requires that the school’s Code of Behaviour is prepared in accordance with guidelines issued by the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB).
The Act provides that the Code of Behaviour shall specify:
- The standards of behaviour that shall be observed by each student attending the school.
- The measures that may be taken when a student fails to observe those standards.
- The procedures to be followed before a student may be suspended or expelled from the school concerned.
- The grounds for removing a suspension imposed in relation to a student.
- The procedures to be followed relating to notification of a child’s absence from school.
Section 23 of the Act further states that:
“(3) A code of behaviour shall be prepared in accordance with such guidelines as may, following consultation by the Board with national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations and trade unions and staff associations representing teachers, be issued by the Board.
(4) The principal of a recognised school shall, before registering a child as a student at that school in accordance with section 20, provide the parents of such child with a copy of the code of behaviour in respect of the school and may, as a condition of so registering such child, require his or her parents to confirm in writing that the code of behaviour so provided is acceptable to them and that they shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure compliance with such code by the child.
(5) The principal of a recognised school shall, on a request being made by a student registered at the school or a parent of such a student, provide the student or parent, as the case may be, with a copy of the code of behaviour in respect of the school concerned.”
In May 2008, the NEWB published Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools. A copy was sent to each school and it is also available to download from the link above. These Guidelines, which were developed by an expert group established by the Board, were published following a wide range on inputs from management bodies, teacher unions, parent organisations, students, the DES and many other bodies.
The Guidelines set out a framework of good practice to assist schools in developing a Code of Behaviour for the first time, or in reviewing and strengthening their existing Code. The Guidelines have a basis in law and Codes of behaviour must be prepared in accordance with these Guidelines.
The Guidelines offer advice in relation to auditing and reviewing existing Codes of Behaviour, highlight the need for a whole school approach and common understanding of behaviour, offer guidance on setting behaviour standards, promoting good behaviour and responding to unacceptable behaviour, and describe the legal and procedural requirements governing the use of suspension and expulsion.
INTO advises schools who are reviewing their Code of Behaviour to have regard for the Guidelines in doing so. In particular, schools should ensure that the procedures outlined with regard to suspension and expulsion are taken into account, if schools are considering taking such action.