Section A: Mission Statement
Coláiste an Átha, Kilmuckridge, is dedicated to providing a quality education in a caring and supportive environment where the holistic development of each individual is nurtured.
Our Mission Statement is based on the following Core Values:
- Education is a partnership between school, parents, and students with the support of the local community.
- Our central purpose is to motivate and prepare students to achieve their full potential.
- The importance and value of all members of the school community is central to all decisions and actions. Courtesy and respect should be shown to people at all times.
- Our College strives to provide a welcoming, secure learning environment, which is respectful, caring and stimulating for all members of the school community.
Based on our Mission Statement, our General aims are:
- To provide a caring, secure and disciplined environment where students learn and teachers teach.
- To provide a broad-based curriculum that seeks to meet the varying needs and abilities of individual pupils.
- To foster the development of each student’s skills, knowledge and self-esteem as well as his/her enthusiasm for learning.
- To help students to develop skills for future life and for responsible citizenship.
- To promote moral values, self-discipline, and self-respect for themselves and respect for others.
Section B: Operating Context – Legal and Procedural Requirements
This Suspension and Exclusion Policy operates under the requirements of:
- The College’s Mission Statement
- The Education Act 1998
- The Education Welfare Act 2000
- The Equal Status Act 2004
- Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (where enacted)
- The Vocational and Educational Acts 1930 – 2001
- The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
- The rules and regulations of the Department of Education and Skills
- The legal rights of County Wexford Vocational Education Committee
- The policies of County Wexford VEC
- Available physical, personnel and financial resources.
- Developing a Code of Behaviour – Guidelines for Schools
- The Code of Behaviour of the College
- The Policies of Coláiste an Átha
The legal context
The entitlement to education is protected in a range of constitutional and legal provisions and in human rights conventions. These legal protections for the individual student’s right to education mean that decisions to suspend or expel a student are open to appeal and may be subject to judicial review by the High Court.
Schools are required, under section 23(2) of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, to include their procedures for suspension and expulsion in their code of behaviour.
The responsibility of the Board of Management
The Board of Management:
- ensures that the school has a policy on, and procedures for, the use of suspension and expulsion that are in line with the guidelines and with any additional requirements set down by the Patron
- ensures that all students and parents are advised about, and aware of, the school’s policy for suspension and expulsion
- ensures that fair procedures are used for suspension and expulsion and that all staff are aware of those procedures
- takes special care to ensure that the fair procedures are accessible to people with disabilities or those from different language or cultural backgrounds
- ensures that the Board of Management and the Principal are equipped for their roles in relation to the use of suspension and expulsion.
Time and timeliness
The Board of Management and Principal will ensure that there are no undue delays in an investigation and in making decisions about the imposition of suspension or expulsion.
Great care will be taken to ensure that all matters to do with an investigation of alleged misbehaviour are dealt with in confidence.
Fair procedures based on the principles of natural justice
By law fair procedures when proposing to suspend or expel a student will be implemented. The requirement for fair procedures derives from the Constitution of Ireland, international conventions and case law.
Fair procedures have two essential parts:
- the right to be heard
- the right to impartiality
Applying fair procedures in school
In Colaiste an Atha, fair procedures will apply to:
- the investigation of alleged misbehaviour that may lead to suspension or expulsion and
- the process of decision-making as to
(a) whether the student did engage in the misbehaviour and
(b) what sanction to impose
The way in which fair procedures are applied will take account of the seriousness of the alleged misbehaviour and will have regard to what is reasonable in the context of the Code of Behaviour and Mission Statement of the College.
The principles of fair procedures will always apply, but the degree of formality required in implementing fair procedures will depend on the gravity of the alleged misbehaviour and on the seriousness of the possible sanction.
The level of formality required for a suspension of fewer than three days, will be less than that required in the case of a longer suspension or in circumstances that might lead to an expulsion. Even informal processes, however, will be fair and be seen to be fair.
The principles of ensuring the right to be heard and the right to impartiality will apply in all cases.
The right to be heard means that a student and their parents will be fully informed about an allegation and the processes that will be used to investigate and decide the matter; and they will be given an opportunity to respond to an allegation before a decision is made and before a serious sanction is imposed.
Absence of bias would mean, for example, that if the child of the Principal was accused of misconduct that might warrant suspension or expulsion, the Principal would not be involved in the decision. Similarly, if the child of a member of the Board of Management was accused of misconduct, that parent would absent themselves from the Board for any consideration of the matter by the Board.
The principle of impartiality in decision-making means it is preferable that, where possible, the
The Principal will arrange for another member or members of staff to conduct the investigation and to present a full report on the facts of the case and any other relevant information to the Principal. She is then free to take a view about whether the student did engage in the behaviour and about the sanction, based on the report of the investigation.
Where circumstances require the Principal to conduct the investigation as well as making a finding and proposing the sanction, she will not only act fairly but be seen to act fairly. It is incumbent upon the Principal to review the investigation to ensure that it has been fully and fairly conducted. It will be evident to the student, parents, staff and other students that the Principal, as decision-maker, is basing her decision, in an objective way, on the findings of the investigation.
The person alleging the misbehaviour, or who is a victim, or a witness, will not usually conduct the investigation.
Thoughtful application of professional judgement and knowledge of the requirements of fair procedures will generally guide decision-making about suspension and expulsion. However, in circumstances of particular complexity, the Board of Management of the College may seek legal advice to support their decision-making.
Students aged eighteen years or more
The provisions of the Guidelines relating to parents apply to the student, where the student has reached eighteen years (Age of Majority Act 1985). Occasions may therefore arise when an adult student requests the school to restrict or limit communication with their parents or to limit parental involvement in matters relating to their education. In such circumstances, the Principal of the College will inform the parents of the student about the change in practice and the reasons.
Involving the Gardaí
Where allegations of criminal behaviour are made about a student, these will be referred to the Gardai who have responsibility for investigating criminal matters. The Juvenile Liaison Officer will be contacted as a significant source of support and advice for the school and the student.
Section D: Policy and procedures
The aim of this policy is to uphold the Health and Safety of all staff members and students of Coláiste an Átha and to ensure the educational rights of all of our students. We offer all teachers the right to educate and all students the right to be educated.
A written statement on how the school handles the issue of difficult pupils and the issue of suspension and exclusion is required under legislation. This document reflects the values and ethos of the College.
- Students have the right to be educated in an orderly and safe environment.
- Teachers have the right to teach in a safe and effective environment.
- Indiscipline is classified as any behaviour which prevents either of the above taking place.
- Any behaviour which threatens the physical or the mental well being of any member of the school community cannot be tolerated.
- The Code of Behaviour of the College provides opportunities at all times to help students with behavioural issues and to integrate these students into the education system.
- The policy is to allow prompt action to be taken where high level incidents of indiscipline occur and where school rules are not adhered to.
- The Board of Management of Colaiste an Atha reserves the right to suspend or expel a student following a breach or breaches of school rules.
- The Board of Management endeavours within the resources of the school to put all support systems in place to allow students to maximise their full potential and to be effective learners.
- Expulsion will be considered as a final resort.
Suspension is defined as requiring the student to absent himself or herself from the school for a specified, limited period of school days. During the suspension the student retains their place in the school. Suspension will be a proportionate response to the behaviour that is causing concern. Suspension is an agreed sanction of the Code of Behaviour of Colaiste an Atha and its purpose is to address a student’s behaviour.
- Enable the management of Colaiste an Atha to set behavioural goals with the student and their parents/guardians.
- Give the staff of Colaiste an Atha an opportunity to plan other interventions.
- Impress on the student and their parents/guardians the seriousness of the behaviour
Forms of Suspension
An Internal Suspension is a sanction used under the Code of Behaviour of the College. It is used as an alternative to any form of external suspension. The student may be suspended internally for up to two days. The Deputy Principal or the Year Head may use it at their discretion. The purpose of an Internal Suspension is to impress upon the student that a serious situation has occurred under the Code of Behaviour and that the student must accept the sanction and learn from it. The student usually follows the timetable of another class and is given punishment work to complete.
An immediate suspension is considered necessary where the continued presence of the student in the College represents a serious threat to the safety of students or staff of the school, or any other person. It will be used as a sanction in exceptional circumstances when the Principal considers it is required. Fair procedures will still be applied.
The following behaviours will incur an automatic suspension:
- A single incident of serious or very serious misconduct including fighting or those who entice others to fight
- Direct and serious abuse, verbal and/or otherwise, to teaching, administration or ancillary staff or any student
- Continuous breaches of school rules as defined in the Code of Behaviour i.e. an accumulation of Incident Report Forms / Serious Incident Report Forms / Inappropriate Behaviour Forms
- Possession and use of weapons
- Bullying, including cyber-bullying, if investigated and proven
- Substance Abuse of legal or/and illegal substances
- Possession of drugs prescribed by law and / or sale or distribution of such drugs
- Sexual Harassment of other students or any member of staff
- Malicious damage to any property or any misbehaviour of a similar nature.
- Any other offence deemed by School Management to be of a serious nature enough to warrant supension.
- This is not an exhaustive list.
Due process and fair procedure will be followed in each case.
Suspension during a State Examination
This sanction will only be approved by the Board of Management of the College and will only be used if there is:
- a threat to good order in the conduct of the examination
- a threat to the safety of other students and personnel
- a threat to the right of other students to do their examination in a calm atmosphere
The DES Best Practice Guidelines concerning Certificate Examinations will also be consulted before a decision is made by the Board in this instance.
A student will only be suspended again shortly after they return to Colaiste an Atha if they engage in serious misbehaviour that warrants suspension. Fair procedures will be observed in full and the standard applied to judging the behaviour will be the same as the standard applied to the behaviour of any other student.
Informal or Unacknowledged Suspension
Exclusion of a student for part of the school day, as a sanction, or asking parents to keep a child from school, as a sanction, is a suspension. Any exclusion imposed by the school is a suspension, and will follow the Guidelines relating to suspension.
Students will not be suspended for an indefinite period. Any such suspension is regarded as a de-facto expulsion and will be treated as such under Section 29 on the Education Act 1998.
Inappropriate Use of Suspension
Students will not usually be suspended for:
- Poor academic performance
- Poor attendance or lateness
- Minor breaches of the code of behaviour
However, any behaviour that is persistently disruptive to teaching and learning or potentially dangerous is a serious matter. Behaviour will be examined in context to understand both the behaviour itself and the response or sanction that is most appropriate.
Authority to suspend
The following have the authority to suspend a student of Coláiste an Átha:
Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board
Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board, under Section 31 of the Vocational Amendment (Amendment) Act 2001, has devolved its authority to suspend a student of Coláiste an Átha to the Board of Management of Coláiste an Átha. The Board of Management has given to the Principal, and in the absence of the Principal, to the Deputy Principal, formal, written authority to suspend a student of the College, taking due account of the provisions of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act 2001. The Board of Management has given written, formal authority to suspend a student to the most senior, Assistant Principal, in the absence of both the Principal and the Deputy Principal.
Grounds for suspension
Suspension will be a proportionate response to the behaviour that is causing concern. Normally, other interventions will have been tried before suspension. School staff will have reviewed the reasons why these other interventions have not worked. The decision to suspend a student requires very serious grounds.
Determining the appropriateness of suspending a student
Where the purpose of a proposed suspension is clearly identified, and that purpose cannot be achieved in any other way, suspension will have value. Suspensions will provide a respite for staff and the student, give the student time to reflect on the link between their action and its consequences and give staff time to plan ways of helping the student to change unacceptable behaviour. Suspension will be counter-productive if used without a clear rationale or without measuring its impact and value. School management will consider the risk of any unwanted outcomes from suspension, such as increased sense of alienation from school that could lead to a cycle of behavioural and academic problems.
Suspension is an agreed sanction of the Code of Behaviour of Colaiste an Atha.
The Principal/Deputy Principal, in conjunction with the relevant Year Head/Class Tutor, will complete a form to determine the appropriateness of suspending a student of Colaiste an Atha.
Suspension will be part of an agreed plan to address the student’s behaviour. The suspension will:
- Enable the school to set behavioural goals with the student and their parents
- Give school staff an opportunity to plan other interventions
- Impress on a student and their parents the seriousness of the behaviour.
Procedures in respect of suspension
Before imposing a suspension
The Principal and the Board of Management of Colaiste an Atha are required by law to follow fair procedures when proposing to suspend a student. Where a preliminary assessment of the facts confirms serious misbehavior that could warrant suspension, the school will observe the following procedures:
- inform the student and their parents about the complaint, how it will be investigated, and that it could result in suspension. Parents will be informed by phone and also in writing.
- give parents and student an opportunity to respond. A meeting will be set up with the parents and the student to provide an opportunity for them to respond before a decision is made and before any sanction is imposed
Where parents do not agree to meet with the Principal, written notification will serve as notice to impose a suspension. The Principal will write advising of the gravity of the matter, the importance of attending a re-scheduled meeting and, failing that, the duty of the school authorities to make a decision to respond to the negative behaviour. The school will record the invitations made to parents and their response.
Where a decision to suspend has been made, the Principal or Deputy Principal or another staff member delegated by the Principal may meet with the parents to emphasise their responsibility in helping the student to behave well when the student returns to school and to offer help and guidance in this.
Procedures in relation to immediate suspension
Where an immediate suspension is considered by the Principal to be warranted for reasons of the safety of the student, other students, staff or others, a preliminary investigation will be conducted to establish the case for the imposition of the suspension. The formal investigation will immediately follow the imposition of the suspension. All of the conditions for suspension apply to immediate suspension. No suspension, including an immediate suspension, will be open-ended.
In the case of an immediate suspension, parents/guardians will be notified, and arrangements made with them for the student to be collected. The school will have regard to its duty of care for the student. In no circumstances will a student be sent home from school without first notifying parents/guardians. If the student cannot be collected by parents/guardians they will be placed on internal suspension until the student is collected.
Implementing the suspension
The Principal will notify the parents and the student in writing of the decision to suspend. The letter will confirm:
- the period of the suspension and the dates on which the suspension will begin and end
- the reasons for the suspension
- any study programme to be followed or punishment exercise to be completed. If the student fails to complete the work set out one day of internal suspension will be given to the student on his/her return to school.
- the arrangements for returning to school, including any commitments to be entered into by the student and the parents
- the provision for an appeal to the Board of Management
- the provision for an appeal to the VEC
- the right to appeal to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science (Education Act 1998, section 29).
Particular care will be taken in communicating with parents who may have reading difficulties, or whose first language is not the language of the school.
The period of suspension
A student will not be suspended for more than three days, except in exceptional circumstances where the Principal considers that a period of suspension longer than three days is needed in order to achieve a particular objective.
If a suspension longer than three days is being proposed by the Principal, the matter will be referred to the Board of Management for consideration and approval, giving the circumstances and the expected outcomes.
The Board of Management has authorised the Principal, with the approval of the Chairperson of the Board, to impose a suspension of up to five days in circumstances where a meeting of the Board cannot be convened in a timely fashion, subject to the guidance concerning such suspensions.
The Board of Management of Coláiste an Átha will place a ceiling of ten days on any one period of suspension imposed by it.
The Board will formally review any proposal to suspend a student, where the suspension would bring the number of days for which the student has been suspended in the current school year to twenty days or more. Any such suspension is subject to appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998.
During the period of suspension the student will be expected to complete any work set by school management. The student will not wear the school uniform or appear at or near the school grounds. The student will be expected to reflect on the reason as to why the suspension was warranted.
After the suspension ends
A period of suspension will end on the date given in the letter of notification to the parents/guardians about the suspension. The Parent/Guardian may be requested to attend with the student upon his/her return to school. A verbal or written apology may be required from the student for the misbehaviour. Any work given to the student to complete during the suspension will be given to the school authorities. The student may be required to enter into a contract of good behaviour or other conditions that may be specified before returning to school.
Re-integrating the student
The school will help the student to take responsibility for catching up on work missed. The Class Tutor, Year Head or Behaviour Support Teacher will provide support to the student during the re-integration process. The student may also be given a Reporting Booklet to help reinforce good behaviour and support the student through the integration process.
When any sanction, including suspension, is completed, a student will be given the opportunity and support for a fresh start. Although a record is kept of the behaviour and any sanction imposed, once the sanction has been completed the school will expect the same behaviour of this student as of all other students.
Appeals to the Board of Management of the College
The Board of Management will offer an opportunity to appeal a Principal’s decision to suspend a student. A Parent/Guardian has 7 days from the date when the suspension begins, in which to lodge an appeal. If the student appealing suspension is 18 years or older he or she may appeal in their own right. The grounds for appeal must be made in writing.
The appeal will be considered at the next Board of Management meeting, part of which the Parents/Guardians can attend at a specific time subject to giving two days notice of their intention to attend the meeting.
At the Board meeting, the Principal will outline the reasons for the school’s recommendation. The Parent’s/Guardian’s appeal is then heard by written submission and/or orally. The Principal may take no further part in the discussion other than to clarify matters raised in the Parent’s/Guardian’s appeal.
The Principal and the Parents/Guardians (if present) leave. The Board makes its decision and communicates it to the Parent/Guardian. In the case of decisions to suspend made by the Board of Management, an appeals process will be provided by Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board.
Section 29 Appeal
Where the total number of days for which the student has been suspended in the current school year reaches twenty days, the parents, or a student aged over eighteen years, will be informed of their right to appeal the suspension under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, as amended by the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions)Act 2007.
At the time when parents are being formally notified of such a suspension, they and the student will be told about their right to appeal. As the student is attending a school under the management of Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board, the appeal must be made in the first instance to WWETB. Where an appeal to the ETB is concluded, parents, or a student aged over eighteen years, may appeal to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. However, the school may insist that the student remain at home while the appeal proceeds. In the event that an appeal is successful, the suspension will be lifted, and if the suspension has already been served, it will be expunged from the student’s record.
Grounds for removing a suspension
A suspension may be removed if the Board of Management decides to remove the suspension for any reason or if an Appeals Committee of Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board or the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science directs that it be removed following an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998.
A suspension may be rescinded in the following circumstances:
- New circumstances come to light after the suspension has been applied that would have mitigated the sanction had they been known beforehand
- Other mitigating factors consistent with the applications of the principles of natural justice
Records of investigation and decision-making
Formal written records will be kept of:
- the investigation (including notes of all interviews held)
- the decision-making process
- the decision and the rationale for the decision
- the duration of the suspension and any conditions attached to the suspension
Report to the Board of Management,
The Principal will report all suspensions to the Board of Management, with the reasons for and the duration of each suspension.
Report to NEWB
The Principal will report suspensions in accordance with the NEWB Reporting Guidelines (Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, section 21(4)(a).
Exclusion is the ultimate sanction imposed by the Board of Management of Coláiste an Átha on a student and as such, will only be exercised by the Board of Management in relation to cases of extreme indiscipline.
In cases where the Principal judges that a student’s actions are such that exclusion should be considered, the Principal will refer the matter to the Board of Management.
Given the severity of the potential sanction, the school, in accordance with the principles of natural justice, will investigate extreme indiscipline cases thoroughly in advance of any hearing that could result in exclusion. In general, there are two sets of circumstances in which exclusion may be considered to be appropriate by the Board of Management of the school:
- Cases where the in-discipline of a student is so pervasive that teaching and learning becomes extremely difficult. Such cases include but are not limited to:
- The behaviour of the student being so disruptive that it is seriously preventing other students from learning or preventing teachers from teaching.
- The student being uncontrollable and not amenable to any form of school discipline or authority.
- The student’s continued presence in the school constitutes a real and significant threat to the safety of himself or herself, or to others.
- When guarantees of reasonable behaviour following repeated suspensions are not forthcoming or not being met in accordance with the Code of Behaviour.
- The student’s conduct acting as a source of serious bad example and having an adverse influence on other students in the school.
First offences of a very serious nature. Such cases include but are not limited to:
- Serious threat of violence against another member of the College community.
- Actual violence or physical assault of another member of the College community.
- Supplying illegal drugs to other students in the College.
- Arriving in school, while on the school grounds, or while representing the College on school-related matters while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Serious burglary or theft.
- Causing major damage to College property.
- Gross insubordination to the Principal or other staff members.
- Brandishing of an offence weapon.
- Sexual assault.
This is not an exhaustive list.
In the interest of ensuring a fair and even-handed system for the imposition of exclusion, the Board of Management will, among other things, take account of the following factors in determining an expulsion:
- The age and state of health of the student.
- The student’s previous record of behaviour at the school.
- Any mitigating circumstances unique to the student that might reasonably be taken into account in connection with the behaviour leading to the expulsion.
- The degree to which parents, peer, or other pressure might have contributed to the behaviour.
- The severity of the behaviour, its frequency and the likelihood of recurrence.
- The extent to which the behaviour impaired or will impair the normal functioning of the student and others in the school community.
- The degree to which the behaviour was a breach of the Code of Behaviour.
- Whether the incident leading to the expulsion was a result of the student acting alone or as part of a group.
- The degree to which the student recognises and accepts that his or her behaviour was unacceptable and is prepared to exhibit genuine contrition.
Except in exceptional circumstances, expulsion will only be resorted to after the Principal has:
- Ensured that all discipline options under the Code of Behaviour have been applied and documented.
- Ensured that all appropriate support personnel, both internal and external, have been involved.
- Ensured all other procedures, referrals, supports have been exhausted.
- Ensured that discussion has occurred with the student and Parents/Guardians regarding specific misbehaviour that school management considers unacceptable and that may lead to permanent expulsion.
- Provided formal verbal and written warnings at appropriate times dealing with such behaviours and provided clear expectations of what was required of the student in the future.
- Recorded all action taken and copied all correspondence.
- Informed the Parents/Guardians of the intention to recommend expulsion to the Board of Management.
- Invited the Parents/Guardians to the Board of Management hearing.
- Invited the Parents/Guardians to make a written submission in advance of the Board meeting.
- Provided in advance the Parents/Guardians with a full, written description of the allegations against the student and the case being made to the Board, together with copies of all documentation, statements and other materials supporting the case.
- Made a formal recommendation to the Board of Management with full supporting documentation.
Following these actions by the Principal, expulsion will still only occur after the Board of Management has:
- Heard the Principal’s case against the student, which will be made in the presence of the Parents/Guardians.
- Heard the response of the Parents/Guardians.
- Examined all the documentation.
- Considered the student’s record in the school.
- Ensured that the Principal is not present for the Boards’ decision on the matter.
- Discussed the case in detail.
- Considered all the commitments made under the Code of Behaviour.
- Made a final decision to expel.
- Communicated the decision to expel to the Parents/Guardians formally by post.
- Informed the Education Welfare Officer of the expulsion under Section 24 (1) of the Education Welfare Act, 2000.
The formal letter of notification will include:
- Notice of the expulsion.
- Effective date of the expulsion.
- Reasons for the expulsion.
- A statement that the Education Welfare Board has been informed of the expulsion.
- A statement that the student is under the care and responsibility of the Parents/Guardians for the period of 20 days required by the Education Welfare Officer to examine alternative provisions for the education of the student.
- Information and documentation on Appeal Rights.
Parents/Guardians have the right to appeal a decision of the Board of Management to expel a student in the first instance to Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board.
If this appeal is not successful Parents/Guardians may then appeal to the Minister for Education or to an authority delegated for such appeals by the Minister under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998. Permanent exclusion may be appealed by a parent/guardian, by a student (over 18 years of age), or by the National Education Welfare Board.
Any such appeal must be lodged within 42 calendar days of the decision of the Board of Management.
Review and Evaluation of Suspension and Exclusion Procedures
Review of the use of suspension and expulsion
The Board of Management of Coláiste an Átha will review the use of suspension and exclusion in the College at regular intervals to ensure that its use is consistent with College policies, that patterns of use are examined to identify factors that may be influencing behaviour in the school and to ensure that use of suspension and expulsion is appropriate and effective.
The Board of Management reserves the right to amend this policy without notice if required.