Your child and school

Here you can find out answers to questions you might have about your child and school.

1. My child has been put into a split class, what is this, what can I do?
A split class is one where two or more levels are taught together (e.g. 3rd class and 4th class) by the same teacher in the same classroom. This may be necessary in a smaller school where pupil numbers don t allow for separate classes at all levels or in a larger school where the intake might fluctuate.

The Principal is responsible for the allocation of teachers to classes. All research shows that children are not disadvantaged by being in a split class. The older children benefit by having the work they covered in the previous year reinforced and the younger children experience a broader spectrum of information, allowing many of them to advance. The Principal has to decide what is the best way to split the classes, where necessary, and in some cases it is by age, some alphabetically. In some cases the children will be given an opportunity to pick one or two friends that they would like to be in the same class. The parents association may also have a role to play in exploring the social impact of a split class on the children. The best thing to do is to talk to the Principal and he/she will be able to explain why they had to split the class and which system they used to decide on which children go into which class.

2. My child speaks very little English, what help/support will they get in school?
When your child starts school he/she will be assessed to determine their level of proficiency in English. A Language Support Teacher may then be allocated to provide support to your child. Language Support Teachers are appointed to assist schools in providing additional language support teaching for pupils. In collaboration with parents and class teachers, language support teachers identify pupils requiring additional support, administer the assessment materials, devise appropriate language programmes, deliver the programmes and record and monitor pupils' progress. It is important that expertise is shared and good practice is communicated and disseminated in order to optimise the opportunities pupils have for developing their proficiency in English.

Primary schools which have 15 or more non- national pupils with significant English language deficits will be automatically entitled to an additional temporary teacher for a period of up to 2 years. This teacher has a specific responsibility for the English language needs of these children. A school which has between 4 and 14 non English speaking children will be grant aided so that they could acquire the services of a suitably qualified person to teach English. Schools with 3 or fewer non English speaking children would be expected to provide for the educational provisions of those children from within their existing resources.

3. What learning support is available if my child is falling behind in their school work? 
Learning Support Teacher service is available to all primary schools and the Department of Education and Science has produced Learning Support Guidelines. These guidelines explain the aims and activities of learning support programmes. They include the procedures for identifying and selecting children who might be having difficulty with their school work curriculum and who need supplemental teaching. It is the learning support teachers who provide this extra teaching.

Children who continue to have difficulty coping with their school work, can be psychologically assessed by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and may be eligible for Resource Teacher support.

4. Can the school withdraw Physical Education (PE) as a punishment for children? 
No, the children are entitled to the full curriculum which includes a minimum of one hour per week of PE.

5. Do schools have to take responsibility for the administration of medicines to children? 
No teacher can be required to administer medicine or drugs to a pupil. The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) and the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) advise that the parent(s) of the pupil concerned should write to the school's board of management requesting the board to authorise a member of the teaching staff to administer the medication.

The request should also contain written instructions of the procedure to be followed in administering the medication.

The board of management, having considered the matter, may authorise a teacher to administer medication to a pupil. If the teacher is so authorised she/he should be properly instructed by the board of management.

A teacher should not administer medication without the specific authorisation of the board.

In administering medication to pupils, teachers should exercise the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent parent.

The board of management should inform the schools insurers accordingly.

The board of management should seek an indemnity from the parents in respect of any liability that may arise regarding the administration of the medication.

It is important that boards of management request parents to ensure that teachers be made aware in writing of any medical condition suffered by any children in their class. Children who have epilepsy, diabetes, or are prone to anaphylactic shock syndrome may have an incidence attack at any time and it is vital therefore to identify the symptoms in order that treatment can be given by an appropriate person if necessary.

6. What should I do if my child has a problem in school?
The first thing you should do is speak to the child's teacher. If you think it is something which could be solved in a few minutes you should speak to the teacher either at the beginning or end of the school day. If it would take a little longer you should ask for an appointment with the teacher and outline the nature of the problem if possible.

When you meet the teacher explain the problem as clearly and calmly as possible. Be prepared to work with the teacher and your child to resolve the problem. If the problem cannot be resolved at this level, the next step is to involve the Principal. You should make an appointment and bring with you any paperwork which may be relevant. If the problem remains unresolved the next step is to contact the Board of Management of the school. If you need any help with this please call the NPC Information/Helpline Tel: 01 8874477 or email: helpline@npc.ie

7. What should I do if my child is being bullied in school?
The first thing you should do is speak to your child's teacher. Quite often a teacher can deal with this in the classroom and the problem can be resolved there and then. If the problem persists you should ask for a copy of the school's anti-bullying policy and check if it is being followed. If it is not being followed you should follow the procedure as outlined above. As a family you can support your child by listening to them and letting them know that you are on their side. You should reassure them that they haven't done anything wrong and that you will do all you can to make the bullying stop. You should also do all you can to build up their self esteem whether that's by encouraging activities they are involved in, or introducing them to other groups of children etc.

Click here for the NPC leaflet on Bullying, click here to go to the Department of Education and Skills Anti Bullying Procedures for primary and post primary schools

8. Must my child study Irish? 
Irish is an integral part of the curriculum in all primary schools. There are some exceptional circumstances where a child may be exempted from studying Irish:

(a) Pupils whose primary education up to 11 years of age was received in Northern Ireland or outside Ireland, provided that the parent or guardian who had custody of the pupil was permanently resident in Northern Ireland or outside Ireland during the pupil's period of education up to that age;

(b) Pupils who were previously enrolled as recognised pupils in national schools who are being re-enrolled after a period spent abroad, provided that at least three years have elapsed since the previous enrolment in the State and the pupil is at least 11 years of age on re-enrolment;

(c) Pupils

(i) who function intellectually at average or above average level but have a Specific Learning Disability of such a degree of severity that they fail to achieve expected levels of attainment in basic language skills in the mother tongue, or

(ii) who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious intellectual impairment [i.e. mental handicap] and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue, or

(iii) who have been assessed as having a general learning disability due to serious sensory impairment, and are also failing to attain adequate levels in basic language skills in the mother tongue.

The evidence of such a disability must be furnished by a qualified psychologist, supported in the case of (iii) by a report from an appropriate medical specialist. In addition, a full report on the pupil must be furnished by the school.

(d) Pupils from abroad, who have no understanding of English when enrolled, would be required to study one language only, Irish or English;

(e) Children of foreigners who are diplomatic or consular representatives in Ireland;

(f) Children from other countries in whose case the Minister is satisfied that they are resident in this country as political refugees.

Pupils from the above categories may be allowed to remain in the class during the Irish lesson so that they may have an opportunity to gain knowledge of spoken Irish and to participate in the learning activities. Alternatively, other suitable arrangement may be made such as allocating school work on other subject areas.

A parent must apply for an exemption. [Department of Education and Science Circular 12/96 see Department's list of circulars here

9. How can I find out more about what my child is learning in school?
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) have lots of information about the various subjects at all levels. Click here to get detailed information on their website about each of the subject areas.

10. What is the Curriculum in Irish Primary Schools
The curriculum refers to the programme of study your child will follow through their primary school years .It is presented in seven areas, some of which are further subdivided into subjects (see table below). The development of curriculum for Religious education remains the responsibility of the different church authorities.

However, the Minister for Education and Skills has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to develop a religion and ethics programme for schools. Click here for further information on the Education about Religion and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics curriculum.

Language 
Gaeilge, English

Mathematics

Social, environmental and scientific education 
History, Geography, Science

Arts education 
Visual Arts, Music, Drama

Physical education

Social, personal and health education

Religious education

11. What is a school's Code of Behaviour?
This is a document which outlines the behaviour expected of all members of the school community. It should be prepared in consultation with all members of the school community including pupils and parents. It should be available to all parents and you may be asked to sign it when your child starts school. Corporal or physical punishment is illegal in Irish schools. Click here to find out more about Developing a School's Code of Behaviour

12. What homework will my child get in primary school?
Schools set their own policy in relation to homework. For example, in some schools children from first to sixth class are given homework each week night. Other schools give a small amount of reading or maths to infant classes.

If your child does get homework, you should give them space and encouragement to do it. If they need it, offer your help. Take time to talk with your child about what they do in school each day.

Set aside a quiet time where your child is sitting comfortably at a table and will not be distracted by television or other noise.

Homework time should include time for oral as well as written work. Oral work - speaking and repeating what they have learned - is particularly helpful in the early years.

Encourage your child to keep their text books and exercise books clean and tidy.

If your child is working on their own, be available to help and show an interest in what they're doing. Praise your child's efforts whenever you can.

Try to be patient with your child.

If your child is having ongoing problems with homework discuss this with the teacher.

If your child can't do their homework for any reason, let the teacher know. Write a short note explaining why or arrange a meeting with the teacher.

Click here to download the NPC Homework leaflet

13. What should I do if my child gets too much homework?
The amount of homework and the time to be allocated to it are key features of the school's homework policy. Parents need to be fully familiar with this policy, so as to manage the time allocated at home by the child. It is important that the target time for homework for their child's class is known to parents. They can then intervene if the child takes a significantly longer time to complete the tasks set, and can alert the teacher to the difficulties being encountered.

14. What is the role of the Home School Community Liaison officer?

It is very important for your child to have good home-school communication. Parents are the primary educators of their children and their co-operation and support are essential to the school. In some schools Home-School community Liaison Officers are appointed from among the teaching staff to encourage parents to participate more fully in their children's education and to become more involved in the life of the school. This scheme is restricted to a small number of schools. Click here to go the Child and Family Agency School Support Services, Home School Community Liaison Scheme.

15. My child's school have asked for a voluntary contribution what should I do?
Primary schools in Ireland are funded on the basis of a Capitation Grant Scheme which is decided in the Budget by the Government every year. That means the school's Board of Management gets a certain amount of money allocated for each child that they have enrolled in the school. This money is used to pay all expenses, such as electricity, oil, insurance, telephone, etc. As costs rise, this is often not enough to cover all the costs. Some schools ask parents for a voluntary contribution to help towards these costs. This of course has to be on a voluntary basis and you are under no obligation to pay it. No child or family should be named or shamed for not contributing.

16. When should I expect to meet my child's teacher?
In each school year there will be one formal parent/teacher meeting held in each primary school. This will usually take place at the end of the school day and the school will close 15 minutes early to facilitate this.

The school will let you know the date and time of the meeting. This is an important meeting and you should do your best to attend. At the meeting you can see examples of your child's work and discuss your child's progress with the class teacher. Going to these meetings also shows your child that you are interested in how they are doing.

If you are concerned about your child's progress at any stage during the year, you can arrange to speak to the class teacher.

If you cannot attend the formal parent/teacher meeting then you should let the teacher know and you should be offered a suitable and convenient alternative. See the Department of Education and Science Circular PC 14/04: Arrangements for Parent/Teacher and Staff meetings click here

17. How do schools communicate with Parents? 
Schools generally communicate with parents by sending notes home with the child. These notes can be written in the child's homework diary or printed on a separate sheet. You should check your child's school bag each day for notes.

18. Will I get a written report about my child from the school?
Under the Education Act, 1998 the school must provide reports for each child. The school must allow parents to have access to their child's school record. The school should have a procedure to keep parents informed about matters relating to the school.

The Act states "the Principal and teachers shall regularly evaluate students and periodically report the results of the evaluation to the students and their parents".

Under the Education (Welfare) Act, if a student leaves one school to go to another, the Principal of the first school must give information about the child to the new school. This information may include attendance or other relevant matters relating to the child's progress.

You should receive a written report from your child's school at some point(s) during the year.
This report will give you information on your child's progress and achievement in school in four key areas.

1. Your child as a learner

  • how your child likes learning in school
  • how your child works with other children, or on his/her own
  • how your child keeps trying at work, even when it is hard
  • how well your child works in school or at home

2. Your child's social and personal development

  • if your child appears happy in school
  • how he/she behaves
  • how he/she gets on with other children in the classroom and in the playground

3. Your child's learning across the curriculum

  • how he/she is getting on in English, Gaeilge, Mathematics, and in the other subject areas
  • whether he/she needs a little or a lot of help with school work
  • whether your child needs a little or a lot of help with homework

4. You and your child's learning

  • how you might be able to help your child to do better in school
  • things you can do at home to help with your child's learning

For tip sheets on ways you can help your child to learn, check the NCCA website www.ncca.ie

For further information or to download an information sheet on your child's school report click here to go to the NCCA website

Other items which should be included in your child's report include:

Standardised test results - when applicable should be included in your child's report. The purpose of the standardised test is to check how your child is performing in literacy (English) and numeracy (maths). The tests must be carried out at the end of first class or the beginning of Second and again at the end of fifth or the beginning of sixth class. Parents must be informed of the result of the test. The result of a standardised test will appear as a number. Your child's teacher will write a short comment explaining to you what this number means. 
Comments - The teacher may draw attention to something (s)he would like to talk to you about. The teacher might use this space to draw attention to, or praise your child for some special achievement or quality.
For further information on Standardised Tests see the NCCA website www.ncca.ie

19. Should schools pass on school reports to both parents of a child, where the parents are separated or only to a parent who requests this?
If a request is made then it would be appropriate to comply with the request and to supply copies of school reports to both guardians. Again, in the absence of a request, a school would have to consider the particular circumstances but, given that it would be likely that there would be relatively little expense and difficulty in arranging for copies of the reports to be sent to both guardians it would seem sensible to have a policy which provides for copies of reports to be sent to each guardian.

20. I am concerned about my child’s safety before school. What can I do? Supervision before and after school is an issue of concern in many schools, the Board of Management has a duty of care for all children including periods of time where children are on the school premises outside of the official 5 hours and 40 minutes contact time, i.e. when the children assemble for school and when they are dismissed at the end of the school day. It is up to the management of the school to ensure that all children and staff are in a safe environment. To this end the Board of Management must prepare a safety statement which would highlight any areas of particular concern. However the staff of the School are not required by their contract to provide supervision outside of the official 5 hours and 40 minutes contact time.

NPC have been negotiating with the Department for a number of years on this issue and we were delighted when it was particularly suggested as one of the ways a school could use their extra hour per teacher per week as per the CrokePark Agreement.

The provision, with effect from the start of the 2010/11 school year, of an additional hour per week to be available to facilitate, at the discretion of management, school planning, continuous professional development, induction, substitution and supervision (including supervision immediately before and after school times).

The Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) says: Based on Case Law precedence and the advice of Allianz Insurance, it appears that it can be reasonably expected that children will be on school premises for up to 10 minutes before and after school, allowing for normal access and departure in an orderly fashion.

Once the school allows access to the premises, the School authorities have a duty to supervise. The same applies to pupils staying on after school.  

It is not reasonable to leave children standing on the sides of busy roads in inclement weather where the traffic poses a danger.

The geography of every school is different, but regardless of design, the Board of Management’s (BoM's) responsibility relates to the entire premises and not just the school building or designated playgrounds. 

Some Solutions suggested by the IPPN (Irish Primary Principals’ Network) include: Engage the Parents’ Association (PA) in discussion re. Before & After School Children’s Safety. Outline the BoM’s difficulty in relation to this matter

Engage the PA in discussion re. the link between the school opening time and the pattern of children being on school premises for lengthy periods in advance. Having consulted with parents through the Parents’ Association & individually and having consulted with staff, the BoM should consider the feasibility of altering the school opening time to minimize the amount of time children spend unsupervised on the school premises. 

The BoM to engage the PA in discussion re providing a Rota of parents to supervise the safety of children before & after school. 

The BoM and the PA should negotiate with transport providers and seek more practical collection and drop-off times for children. Where transport providers are either unwilling or unable to show flexibility, encourage parents to engage in car pooling.

21. I think my child’s classroom is overcrowded, what are the rules regarding this?
There are no specific allowances for space per child in a classroom, neither are there rules regarding the maximum number of children in a classroom. It is up to the management of the school to ensure that all children and staff are in a safe environment. To this end the Board of Management must prepare a safety statement which would highlight any areas of particular concern.

If you are concerned you should raise the issue with the class teacher / Principal.

22. The playground in my child’s school is really crowded; there doesn’t seem to be enough teachers to supervise. I am worried for my child’s safety. What should I do?
The Principal has the responsibility to organize supervision at break and lunchtime. It is up to the management of the school to ensure that all children and staff are in a safe environment. To this end the Board of Management must prepare a safety statement which would highlight any areas of particular concern. There is a system for supervision which teachers can opt into and be paid for this work separate from their salary. Most teachers have opted into this. The principal organizes a suitable Rota. Some of the additional time agreed under the Croke Park Agreement can also be used for supervision if necessary. If you have a concern you should raise this with the Principal.