The child protection review just launched in English schools is also an opportunity to ensure child protection protocols here are fit for purpose, according to a local educationalist.
Audrey Stuart, former principal at Olderfleet Primary, now an officer with the Ulster Teachers’ Union, said children - and teachers – needed to know they could trust the child protection systems in place.
She was speaking as Children’s Minister Tim Loughton launches a review in English schools following a child abuse case which resulted in the indefinite jailing for abuse of a disgraced teacher.
“Appalling cases like this are a chance for everyone to take stock of the measures in place and be assured that they are fit for purpose,” she said.
“We all know about child protection, but after something like this parents and children need to be assured that the system works, that if concerns are raised there is a recognised pathway within schools through which they can be investigated.
“But teachers too must be confident that these protocols will be adhered to – by both boards of governors and employing authorities and, just as importantly, by parents.
“The vulnerable child must be at the heart of any concerns raised, but the processes in place must be there to protect the child – and the teacher.
“The rise in false allegations against teachers is unprecedented as parents are by-passing the schools’ child protection procedures.
“By often going straight to social services or police they are immediately compromising these protocols.
“These systems are there for the protection of everyone and while, I re-iterate, the welfare of our children cannot be over-emphasised, we would urge parents to use the recognised child protection pathways in place within schools.
“Not to do so is to immediately undermine the child-protection systems which must exist to safeguard the welfare of both children – and teachers.”