Code of Ethics

Young People in Sport


In offering this Code of Ethics to schools we recognise that the sports and activities under the ISSSC umbrella have national governing bodies with codes of their own.

We also recognise that each ISSSC school will have their own policies on Bullying and Child Protection. The schools policies on these issues will take precedence.

The Irish Special Schools Sports Council (ISSSC) is a voluntary organisation that was established in 1985 to develop sporting and cultural activities in schools catering for pupils with Mild General Learning Disabilities.
The ISSSC operates at local, regional and national level.

Currently there are 30 schools involved in active participation, catering for approximately 3,500 pupils.

The main object for which the body is established is to provide our students with a wide variety of opportunities for personal and social development through participation in sporting and cultural activities.

Policy Statement

This document has been collated in line with the requirements defined by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) in the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport in Ireland (2000) and also Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools as defined by the Department of Education and Skills (2011). It has also been created in consultation with Bernie Priestly of the Irish Sports Council.

The Code aims to promote best practice and provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all.

The ISSSC is fully committed to safeguarding the well being of all students. Every individual participating under the banner of the ISSSC should at all times show respect and understanding for one another’s rights, safety and welfare and conduct themselves in a way that reflects the principles of the ISSSC and the guidelines contained in the Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Young People in Sport.

In the ISSSC our first priority is the welfare of the young people and we are committed to providing and environment which will allow participants to perform to the best of their ability, free from bullying and intimidation.

Core Values in Sport for Young People.

The work of the ISSSC is based on the following principles that will guide the development of sport in those schools for pupils with Mild General Learning Disabilities.
We believe that young peoples experience of sport should be guided by what is best for the young person. It should enhance their lives, enable them to have fun, make friends, experience success, develop self-esteem and achieve their potential as players in an atmosphere where participation, enjoyment and equality are paramount.

Integrity in Relationships:

Teachers and adults interacting with children in school sport must do so
with integrity and respect for the child. There is a danger that the sporting context could be used to exploit or undermine children. All adult actions in sport should be guided by what is best for the child. Verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse of any kind is unacceptable within sport.

Principle of Fair Play:

Ireland has contributed, and is committed, to the European Code of Sports Ethics, of which fair play is the guiding principle. Fair play is defined as:

“much more than playing within the rules. It incorporates the concepts of
friendship, respect for others and always playing with the right spirit. Fair play is defined as a way of thinking, not just behaving.“ (European Sports Charter and Code of Ethics, Council of Europe, 1993).

It incorporates issues concerned with the elimination of cheating, gamesmanship, violence (both physical and verbal), sexual harassment and abuse, exploitation, unequal opportunities, excessive commercialisation, and corruption. The ISSSC and its affiliate schools strives continuously to adhere to this key principle when conducting sports activities.

Atmosphere and Ethos:

Children’s sport must be conducted in a safe, positive and encouraging

atmosphere. A child-centred ethos helps to ensure that competition and
specialisation are kept in their appropriate place. Too often competitive
demands are placed on children too early, and results in excessive levels of pressure on them, with the consequence of high levels of dropout from sport.

The teachers and adults involved with the ISSSC have an overall responsibility to take the steps necessary to ensure that positive and healthy experiences in sport are provided for the pupils in their care.


All children in our schools are treated in an equitable and fair manner,
regardless of age, ability, sex, religion, social and ethnic background or
political persuasion.

Children with disability are involved in sports activities in an integrated way, thus allowing them to participate to their potential alongside other children.

Teachers and staff are always mindful of pupil safety, both individually and collectively in sports participation. If a pupil is excluded from a particular sports activity, for good safety reasons, it is not to be regarded as being contrary to the council’s ethos of integration and inclusion.


A balanced approach to competition can make a significant contribution to the development of our students, while at the same time providing fun, enjoyment and satisfaction.
Teachers/Coaches should aim to put the welfare of each individual child first and competitive standards second.

Guidelines for teachers/coaches

The ISSSC recognises the key role teachers/coaches play in the lives of children in sport.
Teachers should have, as their first priority, the children’s safety and enjoyment of the sport and should adhere to the guidelines and regulations set out in the ISSSC Code of Ethics aswell as in the Code of Conduct for Sports Policy and the Child Protection Policy in their own school.

Each individual school has a duty of care for Coaches working with pupils on behalf of the school to:
• Be a role model for children, and maintain the highest standards
of conduct when interacting with children, parents, officials and organisers
• Encourage children to play by the rules
• Always behave responsibly on the sidelines and not seek to unfairly
affect the game or sport
• Take care not to expose any player, intentionally or unintentionally, to embarrassment or disparagement by the use of flippant or sarcastic remarks
• Respect referees, coaches, organisers, and other players
• Not publicly question the judgement or honesty of referees, coaches or organisers
• Teach children that honest endeavour is as important as winning, and do all they can to encourage good sportsmanship
• Set a good example by applauding good play on both sides
• Encourage mutual respect for teammates and opponents.

Guidelines for Coaches
Teachers have the ultimate duty of care to ensure that all coaches/selectors/team managers working with the school have as their first priority the children’s safety and enjoyment of the sport, and adhere to the guidelines and regulations set out.
Coaches must respect the rights, dignity and worth of every child, and must treat everyone equally, regardless of sex, ethnic origin, religion or ability. A coach of school teams has a duty of care, which is more onerous than that of a coach to an adult team. A coach must act as a role model, promote the positive aspects of sport, and maintain the highest standards of personal conduct.
Coaches should remember that their behaviour to players, other officials, and opponents has an effect on the players in their care. Coaches should be generous with praise, and never ridicule or shout at players for making mistakes or for losing a game. Care must be taken not to expose a child intentionally or unintentionally to embarrassment or disparagement by use of sarcastic or flippant remarks about the child or his/her family. Physical punishment or physical force must never be used. Coaches should never punish a mistake – by verbal means, physical means, or exclusion. All young players are entitled to respect.
Coaches should be careful to avoid the “star system”; each child deserves equal time and attention.
Coaches must insist that players in their care respect the rules of the game. They must Insist on fair play, and ensure that players know that cheating or bullying behaviour will not be tolerated. Coaches must encourage the development of respect for opponents, officials, selectors and other coaches, and avoid criticism of fellow coaches.
Coaches must remember that our pupils play for fun and enjoyment, and that skill and playing for fun have priority over highly structured competition. Coaches must never make winning the only objective. Coaches must set realistic goals for the team and for the individual players, and not push young players; a safe and enjoyable environment must be created.
It is advisable to:
• Record attendance at training
• Keep a brief record of injuries and actions taken
• Keep a brief record of problem/action/outcome if behavioural problems arise and a young player has to face disciplinary procedures.
Good Practice Guidelines
All personnel are encouraged to demonstrate exemplary behaviour in order to protect themselves from false allegation (see Child Protection School Policy). It is important to realise that certain situations or friendly actions could be misinterpreted by participants or by observers. The following are common sense examples of how to create a positive culture and climate:
• Always working in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging an open environment, e.g. no secrets)
• Treating all pupils equally, with respect and dignity
• Always putting the welfare of each child first, before winning or achieving goals
• Maintaining a safe and appropriate distance with sports participants
• Building balanced relationships based on mutual trust which empower pupils to share in decision-making
• Making sport fun and enjoyable
• Promoting fair play
• Involving parents/carers wherever possible (e.g. for the responsibility of their children in the changing rooms); if groups have to be supervised in the changing rooms, it should always be ensured that parents/teachers/coaches/officials work in pairs
• Giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback, encouraging achievements rather than negative criticism
• Recognising the developmental needs and capacity of children, including those disabled – avoiding excessive training or competition and not pushing them against their will
• Securing parental consent in writing to act in loco parentis; e.g. if the need arises, for the administration of emergency first aid and/or other medical treatment
• Keeping a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given
• Requesting written parental consent if club officials are required to transport young people in their cars, and not doing so without the presence of a second adult
• Immediately reporting any accusations made against a person
• Avoiding spending any time alone with a child away from others.

Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct for Students:

The ISSSC wishes to provide the best possible environment for all young people involved in sport. Young people deserve to be given enjoyable, safe sporting opportunities, free of abuse of any kind. These participants have rights, which must be respected, and responsibilities that they must accept.

Rights and Responsibilities of Students:

Students and young people in sport have the right to:
• Be safe
• Be listened to
• Be respected
• Privacy
• Enjoy sports in a protective environment
• Be protected from abuse
• Participate on an equal basis, appropriate to ability
• Experience competition at a level at which they feel comfortable
• Make complaints and have them dealt with
• Get help against bullies
• Say No
• Confidentiality
• Ask for help

Students and young people in sport have the responsibility to:
• Show respect to other players. Coaches and teachers
• Play fairly at all times.
• Respect team members even when things go wrong
• Respect opponents, be gracious in defeat.
• Abide by the rules set down by teachers/coaches when travelling to away events.
• Behave in a manner that avoids bringing the sport and the school into disrepute
• Talk to teacher/coach if they have any problems
• Shake hands before and after games
• Accept apologies from opponents
• Adhere to proper standards of behaviour and to the schools Code of Discipline.

Students and young people in sport should never:
• Cheat
• Use physical contact that is not allowed within the rules
• Shout or argue with officials, team mates or opponents
• Harm team members, opponents or their property.
• Bully or use bullying tactics to isolate another player
• Keep secrets, especially if they have been caused harm
• Tell lies about others
• Spread rumours

Code of Conduct for Parents:

Parents have a right to:
• Know that their child is safe
• Be informed of problems or concerns relating to their children
• Have their consent sought for issues such as trips away
• Complain appropriately if they have concerns about coaches, players or other adults
• Have their concerns treated seriously
• Be protected from other adults behaving inappropriately

Parents have a responsibility to:
• Encourage their child to play by the rules
• Respect their child and teach them that they can only do their best
• Insist that their child shows respect for coaches, teachers and other adults involved in sporting activities
• Behave responsibly on the sideline
• Show respect and appreciation for teachers and coaches involved in their child’s sporting activities
• Accept their child’s ability and ambitions
• Ensure that their child’s needs are met.

Code of Conduct for Teachers/Coaches

Teachers/Coaches have a right to:
• Access ongoing training and information on managing activities for young players, particularly on child protection
• Support in reporting suspected abuse
• Respect from players and supporters
• Be protected from abuse by players and supporters
• Not be left vulnerable when working with children

Teachers / Coaches have a responsibility to:
• Behave in a way that sets good example and presents a positive role model for children and young people; not in any way to reward, demonstrate personally, nor condone in others unfair play and to take appropriate sanctions against this type of behaviour.
• To ensure that their own level of training and qualification is appropriate to the needs of the child as he or she moves through different stages of sporting commitment
• To put as a first priority the health, safety and welfare of the child
• To provide a sporting experience for children that encourages a life-long commitment to health related physical activity
• To avoid treating children simply as small adults but to be aware of the physical and psychological changes that occur during maturation and how these affect sporting performance
• To avoid placing on a child expectations unrelated to his or her capacity to meet them.
• To make the enjoyment of the participant a priority
• To take as much interest in the less talented as in the talented and to emphasise and reward personal levels of achievement
• To provide the child and child’s family with as much information as possible to ensure awareness of the potential risks and attractions of reaching levels of high performance.
• Keep a brief record of injuries and action taken
• Keep a brief record of problem/action/outcomes if behavioural problems arise.

Teachers/ Coaches should avoid:
• Spending excessive amount of time with children away from others
• Taking sessions alone
• Taking children to their home
• Taking children on journeys alone in their car

Teachers/ Coaches should not:
• Exert undue influence over a participant in order to obtain personal benefit or reward.
• Engage in rough physical games, sexually provocative games or allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any kind and /or make sexually suggestive comments about/to a child
• Take measurements to engage in certain types of fitness testing without the presence of other adults
• Undertake any for of therapy (hypnosis etc) in the training of children.

Travelling with Students / Young people in Sport

(*Affiliate schools should also refer to their individual travel and supervision policies.)

There is extra responsibility taken on by teachers / coaches when they travel with children to events. When travelling with young people:
• Ensure that there is adequate insurance cover
• Do not carry more than the permitted number of passengers
• Ensure use of seat belts
• Avoid being alone with one participant
• Drop off at central locations
• Seek parental permission to transport an individual participant
• Clearly inform parents of times of pickup and drop off.

• Make sure there is an adequate child/adult ratio. This will depend on the nature of the activity, the age of the participants and any special needs of the group.
• As a guide the ratio is 1:8 for under 12 years of age and 1:10 for over 12 years of age. This is only a guide and will change depending on the activities – eg water ports / adventure sports etc.
• Where there are mixed groups there should be leaders of both genders
• Avoid being alone with one participant. If a teacher/coach needs to talk separately to a student, do so in an open environment in view of others.
• In changing rooms, supervise in pairs of appropriate gender
• Teachers / coaches should not have to enter changing rooms unless children are very young or need special assistance, where supervision should be in pairs of appropriate gender
• Keep record of any incidents / injuries that arise.

Away trips / Overnight stays:
• Permission forms should be signed by parents containing emergency contact numbers
• There should be contact with parents to communicate travel times, competition details, other activities, gear requirements, medical requirements, special dietary needs and any other necessary details.
• Rooming arrangements – adults should not share rooms with children, children share rooms with those of same age, gender and adults should knock before entering rooms
• All group socialising should take place in communal areas (no boys in girls rooms and vice versa)
• Alcohol, cigarettes and other illegal substances are forbidden
• There must be at least one adult of each gender with a mixed party.
• There should be a good adult/child ratio (1:5/6) and proper access to medical personnel
• Light out times should be enforced
• Young players should be under reasonable supervision at all times and should never leave the venue or go unsupervised without prior permission

All schools should have a safety statement, including specific and potential risks attached to all sports engaged in. they should also have procedures in place for safeguarding against such risks. In addition schools and event organisers should:
• Ensure activities are suitable in age and stage of development of participants
• Keep a record of any specific medical conditions of participants
• Keep a record of emergency contact numbers for parents/ guardians
• Ensure that any necessary protective gear is used
• Ensure that First Aid kit is close at hand with access to a qualified first aider
• Know the contact numbers of emergency services
• Keep the first aid stocked
• Ensure easy access to medical personnel if needed and have an emergency plan
• If an incident occurs keep a record of injury and action taken. Make a brief record of the problem/action/outcome. Contact the students parents/guardians and keep them informed of all details
• Officials (umpires/referees etc) should ensure the conduct of the game
• Students should know and keep the rules of their sport, keeping in mind that many rules are there for their safety
• Ensure there is adequate insurance cover for activities

Some sports require a “hands on approach”, especially in a teaching or coaching situation. Eg – it may be necessary to support a child learning to swim. The following however should be taken into consideration:
• Avoid unnecessary physical contact
• Any necessary contact should be in response to the needs of the child and not the adult
• It should be in a open environment with the permission and understanding of the participant
• It should be determined by the age and developmental age of the participant – don’t do something that a child can do for themselves.

Use of photographic and filming equipment:
The ISSSC has adopted a policy in relation to the use of images of athletes on the ISSSC website and in other publications as there have been concerns about the risks posed directly and indirectly to children and young people through the use of photographs on sports websites and other publications. Where possible, schools should, avoid the use of first name and surname of individuals in a photograph. This reduces the risk of inappropriate or unsolicited attention.

Rules to guide the use of photography:
• If the athlete is named avoid using their photograph
• If a photograph is used avoid naming the athlete
• Ask for the athlete’s permission to use their image. This ensures that they are aware of the way the image is to be used to represent the sport. An athlete’s permission form is one way of achieving this.
• Ask for parental permission to use the image. This ensures that they are aware of the way the image is to be used to represent the sport. A parental permission form is one way of achieving this. Permission for use of images that will be used on the ISSSC website will be contained within the permission form of the affiliate schools.
• Only use images of athletes in appropriate dress to reduce use of inappropriate use. The content of the photograph should focus on the activity and not on a particular child
• Create recognised procedures for reporting the use of inappropriate images to reduce the risks to athletes. Follow the schools child protection procedures.

Videoing as a coaching aid: Video equipment can be used as a legitimate coaching aid. However, permission should first be obtained from the player and the player’s parent/carer.

Anyone concerned about any photography-taking place at events or training sessions can contact the school and ask them to deal with the matter.

Mobile Phones
The ISSSC request that no child has access to a mobile phone at a sports event. It is requested that each participating school collects all mobile phones from students before the sports event. The travelling teacher assigned to the school team will have responsibility for the students phones. If a student is found with a mobile phone at an ISSSC event then that student will be reported to their relevant supervisor / teacher.
Child Welfare and Protection Procedures

It is important to note that each school will have its own Child Protection Policy and procedures to go with same. Should a child make any disclosure to a teacher/coach or other adult associated with the child’s school then the Child Protection Policy of that school will take precedence and the Designated Liaison Person for that school will deal with the disclosures.

The following measures are to be put in place only should a disclosure be made to an event organiser at an ISSSC event.

Designated Liaison Person:
It is the responsibility of the Executive of the ISSSC to nominate the Designated Liaison Person. As it will not be possible for any one member of the Executive to be present at all events, the DLP will be the Regional Representative for the area where the event is being held. The designated liaison person should immediately, or as soon as possible after the disclosure, inform the Principal of the involved child’s school that a disclosure has been made. The Principal of the school should thereafter put into effect the procedures as outlined in the schools Child Protection Policy.

Dealing with disclosures from children/young people:
An abused child is likely to be under severe emotional stress. Great care should be taken not to damage the trust that a child has placed in the person he/she is making a disclosure to.
When information is offered in confidence the adult will need tact and sensitivity in responding to the disclosure. The child will need to be reassured but the adult will need to explain the need for action which will necessarily involve other adults being informed. It is important to tell the child that everything possible will be done to protect and support him/her but not to make promises that cannot be kept – eg. Promising not to tell anyone else.
(Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures for Post-Primary Schools P.13
Children First – Section 4.3.2
Children First – Section 4..3.3)

While the basis for concern must be established as comprehensively as possible, the following advice is offered to the adult to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse.

It is important to deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent way through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem, rather than interviewing the child about the details of what happened:
a) It is important to stay calm and not to show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying. Listen compassionately and take what the child is saying seriously
b) It should be understood that the child has decided to tell about something very important and has taken a risk to do so. The experience of telling should be a positive one so that the child will not mind talking to those involved
c) The child should understand that it is not possible that any information will be kept secret.
d) No judgemental statement would be made about the person against whom the allegation is being made.
e) The student should not be questioned unless the nature of what he/she is saying is unclear. Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non specific questions should be used such as “Can you explain to me what you mean by that?”
f) The child should be given some indication as to what will happen next, such as informing the Designated Liaison Person. It should be kept in mind that the child may have been threatened and may feel vulnerable at this stage
g) Record the disclosure immediately afterwards using, as far as possible, the child’s own words.
The duty of the recipient of this information is to report it to the Designated Liaison Person.

Record Keeping:
When child abuse is suspected, it is essential to have a written record of all the information available. Personnel should note carefully what they have observed and when they observed it. Signs of physical injury should be described in detail and, if appropriate, sketched. Any comment by the child concerned, or by any other person, about how an injury occurred should be recorded, preferably quoting words actually used, as soon as possible after the comments have been made. The record of the discussion should be signed and dated and given and retained by the Designated Liaison Person.
All records should be regarded as highly confidential and placed in a secure location by the DLP.

Child Protection Policy Report Form

Confidential – Report to DLP Only.

Date: ______________ Time: ______________

Location: ______________________________________________

Host School: ___________________________________________

Regional Representative Present: _____________________________

Report: ________________________________________________

Signed: _______________________

Date: ________________________

How to handle disclosure:
The role of the adult to whom disclosure has been made is to pass on information only through the correct channel:
• Listen
• Don’t ask leading questions
• Offer reassurances but make no promises
• Allow time to talk
• Don’t over react
• Explain further action
• Record (on Record Form) while it is fresh in your mind
• Report to Designated Liaison Person

It is important here to state that the normal procedures in a school for dealing with disclosure would be for the DLP to complete a standard referral form for the Health Board, report to the Chairperson of the Board of Management and inform the parents.

However the role of the DLP for the ISSSC would be to report the disclosure and a record of the disclosure to the DLP of the student’s school and then allow the principal to put the schools procedures into effect.

Procedures to follow due to direct disclosure or reasonable cause for concern:

Adult to whom disclosure has been made goes to Designated Liaison Person.
The DLP for the ISSSC reports to the DLP of the student’s school (this is usually school principal)

What do you do if you are not sure?
Accurate record keeping is very important. Confidentiality is essential. Record what you observe but do not assume to diagnose, as we are not medical experts. The DLP may consult the Health Board for advice.
Do not give the child’s name and details in this case. Follow their advice.

How do we protect ourselves?
• Follow the Child Protection Procedures
• Follow the guidelines set out in this document for teachers/coaches/parents
• At an ISSSC event only the teacher/coach/adult who has travelled with the team should be should be supervising/looking after the students on that team. This is especially important for toilet breaks, changing rooms and looking after a sick child.
• If the administration of First Aid is needed at an ISSSC event then two adults are required to be present.


1. Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools
Department of Education and Skills (2011)

2. Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport
Irish Sports Council & Sports Council Northern Ireland (2000)

3. Code of Ethics and Good Practice
Special Olympics Ireland