Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 20 April, 1999

Written Answers. - School Absenteeism.

602. Mr. N. Ahern asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of resources and staffing used on school attendance officers and procedures in Dublin or other urban centres and elsewhere; his views on proposed legislation in this area; when it will be published; if he will give details of the direction and a summary of changes proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10183/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The cost of operating the school attendance service covered by the school attendance committee in Dublin city, Cork city, Waterford city and the borough of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown in 1998 was £1.33 million approximately. The cost of enforcing the School Attendance Acts by the Garda Síochána is not available, as it is not possible to segregate this cost from the overall costs of the wider range of functions carried out by the Garda Síochána.

There are a total of 34 school attendance officers and one support staff member in the areas covered by the school attendance committees. The staff of the relevant local authority provides additional support in some functions.

I expect to be in a position to publish a Bill which will replace existing legislation on school attendance in the very near future. This Bill will provide for legislative and administrative arrangements which can effectively uphold a child's constitutional right to education. These arrangements will reflect current thinking in respect of educational and social issues. The Bill will, in particular, address the problem of truancy and other school attendance problems within the overall context of the general educational welfare of children and their families. It will raise the minimum school leaving age to 16 years or the completion of three years of junior cycle education, whichever is later. It is also proposed to provide for a nationally co-ordinated approach to school attendance issues, by establishing a national board to oversee the operation of the Bill, when enacted. The Bill will also provide for the duties of parents, schools and employers.