Dáil Éireann - Volume 399 - 07 June, 1990

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Unqualified School Leavers.

5. Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

9. Mr. Nealon asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

19. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

26. Mr. O'Brien asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

[1655] 35. Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

42. Mr. Barry asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

53. Mrs. Taylor-Quinn asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

54. Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

63. Mr. McGahon asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

73. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

79. Mr. Belton asked the Minister for Education if a system exists requiring teachers to file a report with her Department on each child who leaves school without any qualification.

Mrs. O'Rourke: I propose to take Question Nos. 5, 9, 19, 26, 35, 42, 53, 54, 63, 73 and 79 together.

Second-level schools are requested to supply returns on early school leavers each February and October to their local FÁS employment services office to facilitate the compilation of a social guarantee register — Deputies will remember that this system was introduced in 1985 or 1986, when Deputy Ruairí Quinn was Minister for Labour. This is a collated [1656] register of all the available information on any pupils under 18 years of age who left school before sitting the leaving certificate and are not currently involved in mainstream education or training. The social guarantee register forms the basis for planning and recruitment to the Youthreach scheme, a programme providing two years full-time vocational training for unqualified early school leavers introduced jointly by my Department and the Department of Labour.

Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Minister agree that most Ministers for Education in Europe are very concerned about the problem of early school leaving because they recognise that if people leave school without qualification they are liable to be condemned to a life of unemployment and left virtually on the margins of society? Would she also agree that it should be the responsibility of the Irish Department of Education to collect information on those who leave school without qualification with a view to analysing the reasons people make this mistake of leaving school so early with a view to remedying the system rather than simply passing the problem on to FÁS or some other agency?

Mrs. O'Rourke: The social guarantee register was introduced by Deputy Quinn and at the time was viewed as being a socially progressive implementation of ideas. I agree with the Deputy that there is within Europe and many other countries a clear recognition that the longer one remains at school and the more certification one receives through school based institutions the better are one's chances not only for economic activity in later life but also for one's own social development.

Within Europe we have the highest stay-on rate in formal education. We have learned this from various discussion papers during this Presidency. People will say the reason is that employment opportunities here are such that parents ask their children to remain on at school. Be that as it may, I am pleased that we have [1657] such a high stay-on rate in our educational institutions — the highest in Europe — in formal education as distinct from training courses.

In 1987 4,700 students left school with no qualification, in 1988 4,400 students left school with no qualification and I understand the number has fallen substantially for 1989, but I do not have the figure. There is a steady fall in the number of people who drop out without formal qualifications.

The second part of the Deputy's question asked why they leave school and suggested that within the school the remedies should be found. The Youthreach scheme is a two year programme — one for education and one for training. I have just received a review of the operation of Youthreach in 1989. It makes very interesting reading and the formal report is most interesting. The programme is already being implemented as a one year educational programme and a one year vocational training programme. We were very concerned that there would be a base of what would be termed pure education throughout the programme.

Mr. J. Bruton: Why do the Department of Education not collect the same information that is now being furnished to FÁS so that the Minister can see what she and her Department can usefully do to avoid this phenomenon and, at least, understand it?

Mrs. O'Rourke: Of course we have the information. The second level schools supply the information to the FÁS office——

Mr. J. Bruton: To FÁS but not to the Minister.

Mrs. O'Rourke: I have all the information.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Minister does not get it.

Mrs. O'Rourke: With respect Deputy [1658] Bruton and with no false sense of modesty — I want to say that we have many curriculum ideas, for example, we are making the junior certificate more attractive——

Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Minister get information on individual pupils?

An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the Minister without interruption.

Mrs. O'Rourke: My job is to see that the young people stay in school as long as possible and that I and my Department devise programmes and strategies which will appeal to young people to stay within the formal school system. To that I have devoted much time, as have the NCCA and the various agencies. I am very pleased that in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990 there has been a considerable increase in the number of students remaining in school and a decrease in the number leaving without certification.

Mr. J. Bruton: But the Minister does not get the information in her Department for individual pupils; that is only given to FÁS.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Yes, we do. We have the information in my Department and I can let the Deputy have it.

Mr. J. Bruton: Please do.

Mrs. O'Rourke: I will.

Mr. J. Bruton: The information is not going to FÁS.

Mrs. O'Rourke: No, we tell them.

Mr. J. Bruton: Why did the Minister not say that and not waste our time?

Mrs. O'Rourke: We are not wasting time.

An Ceann Comhairle: If we are to have questions they shall be properly put by the Deputy rising in his place and putting the question. Question No. 6 please.

[1659] Mr. J. Bruton: We would not be wasting time if the Minister answered the question in the first instance. The Minister is not here as a comedienne but is here to answer questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: I have called the next question.

Mrs. O'Rourke: The Deputy is no Laurel and Hardy.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair should be obeyed now. Question No. 6 please.