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Behaviour is biggest legal issue for schools
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18 Apr 2024 / education Print

Behaviour is biggest legal issue for schools

Six out of ten school leaders (60%) say that the complexities of legal compliance with the rules is their biggest challenge linked to data-protection and privacy, according to a survey by Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC).

The law firm polled more than 400 educators at its recent webinar on education law, which was aimed at providing insights and strategies to improve Irish school operations.

Catherine Kelly (education partner at MHC) said that schools could collect significant amounts of personal data about students, parents, and staff, but added that such data must be fairly and lawfully processed under the GDPR.

Access requests

“We advise schools to ensure a robust and up-to-date data-protection policy is in place, outlining the data they collect, its purpose, how long it will be stored, and who it will be shared with,” she stated.

“Growing awareness of data-privacy rights has also led to more data-access requests in schools, with parents or employees seeking information held about them or a student,” Kelly stated.

“Generally, these requests are triggered by issues such as parental complaints, or staff disputes, and they require a response within 30 days,” she pointed out, adding that creating a defined process for managing and recording data searches was essential.


The MHC survey showed that almost four out of ten school leaders (38%) were not confident in their school’s handling of parental complaints.

Liam Riordan (education partner at MHC) said that managing complaints about the competence of a teacher could be “particularly challenging” for schools.

“As the person responsible for the day-to-day management of the school, it falls to the principal to initiate the professional competency procedure. We recommend that principals take advice before commencing this process, because it can turn litigious very quickly,” he said.

2018 act

Half of the survey’s respondents (50%) identified managing behaviours of concern as the biggest legal challenge facing schools.

David Ruddy (barrister and training consultant for MHC) said that the Admissions to School Act 2018 had intensified this challenge, with schools being required by law to accept all applicants they had places for – including students with special educational needs who might exhibit challenging or disruptive behaviour.

“Having a behaviour-of-concern policy, approved by the board of management, is vital,” he stated, adding that this provided schools with greater confidence and clarity.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland