The Chief Executive of Tusla has said there was a "significant shortcoming" and acknowledged it was worrying that Tusla staff were not absolutely clear about when they should refer suspected abuse of children to the gardaí.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Bernard Gloster said across the country, that in parts of the child and family agency "there were varying interpretations of when do you arrive at a suspicion. There were varying backlogs as to when you get to fill out the forms and make the notifications" but he said when  all of that was set aside "there was a significant shortcoming in that part of the child protection process".

Mr Gloster said this came to light after Tusla identified a reporting issue around a particular case in Co Kerry, which led them to quickly conduct a review of the 16 Tusla centres in the rest of the country.

An audit found that 13% of cases of suspected abuse had not been referred to gardaí.

He said when Tusla receives a referral in relation a child protection and welfare issue and if it is suspected there is a basis for believing abuse may have happened, whether it is wilful neglect, physical or sexual abuse, there is an obligation under the Children First legislation and other legislation to report that to the gardaí.

He said Tusla receives 56,000 such referrals a year.

Meanwhile, Mr Gloster said "there's a very comprehensive programme in place" following the agency's data protection breach in August, but said while it is working exceptionally hard, "they're a long way off on that".

The breach included the accidental disclosure of contact and location data of a mother and child to an alleged abuser.

Mr Gloster said regardless of staffing and funding, "the basics of managing, respecting and protecting somebody's personal data, that's something that has to be at the centre of our practice".

He said between now and Christmas, "some 2,500 to 3,000 frontline staff will be engaged with in a supportive, constructive and instructive way" to give them the tools to make sure this does not happen again.

In relation to children missing more than 20 days of school because of Covid-19 related measures, Mr Gloster said that when schools report to them about a 20-day absence but "when they say they are satisfied that the attendance is well explained and well grounded, Tusla has no interest in any type of regulatory action in that".

He said Tusla is the regulator for home schooling and in August 2019, they had 79 applications for home schooling, compared to last month when they had 360 applications from parents to home school their children.

He said this increase is "reflective of the anxiety and the concern that many parents legitimately hold", but he does not think all those applications will necessarily lead to home schooled students.

He said when parents notify Tusla and receives an acknowledgement, they can begin home schooling, but it can take up to 16 weeks to complete the home-schooling registration afterwards.

He said parents are contacted about their proposed curriculum, they will be asked about the materials they will use and the proposed lay out of their home school day.