Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 02 October, 2003
Written Answers. - Early School Leavers.
Mr. Howlin Mr. Howlin
14. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pupils who leave the education system before completing the junior certificate and the leaving certificate; the steps being taken to address the drop out rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21505/03]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): The first published analysis by my Department of school retention in Ireland was released in August this year. The report indicates that: of those who commenced the junior cycle programme in September 1994, approximately 3,600 – 5.7% – left school before completing the junior certificate three years later; that approximately 8,900 of those who sat the junior certificate did not sit the leaving certificate; and that approximately 12,500 – 18.2% – young people leave school annually without the leaving certificate.
My Department's policy in relation to the retention of young people who are at risk of early school leaving is to support young people in school and to support schools to adapt to the needs of the young people experiencing difficulties. The problem of early school leaving is a complex issue to resolve and requires movement on a number of fronts, including legislative and curricular reforms and preventative interventions and this is the approach that my Department is taking.
 The Education Welfare Act 2000 and the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board provides a comprehensive framework for promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The Act requires schools to draw up school attendance strategies in order to promote regular attendance and tackle the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The strategies will focus on arrangements for the identification of children who are at risk of dropping out of school at an early stage in order that appropriate interventions may be put in place. To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service which is accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others who are concerned with the welfare of young people and it is anticipated that it will have a total of 84 staff in place by the end of the year.
With regard to curriculum, my Department's strategies have included widening the educational experience available to students. These strategies aim to achieve a greater level of inclusiveness in curricular provision and meet the needs of the diversity of pupils in our second level schools, by expanding funding for programmes such as the junior certificate schools programme, JCSP, the leaving certificate vocational programme, LCVP, vocational preparation and training, VPT, and the leaving certificate applied, LCA.
The school completion programme has been implemented to directly target those in danger of dropping out of the education system and is a key component of my Department's strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving. The focus of the school completion programme is on young people between the ages of four and 18 years and aims to develop local strategies to ensure maximum participation levels in the education process. It entails targeting individual young people of schoolgoing age, both in and out of school, and arranging supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes.
There are five youth encounter projects, YEPs, three in Dublin and one each in Cork and Limerick, which are supported by my Department to provide educational facilities for young people aged between ten and 15 years who have become alienated from the conventional mainstream education system. Many of the pupils are persistent truants and have become involved in, or are at risk of becoming involved in, minor crime and delinquency. The primary objective of the youth encounter projects is to rehabilitate these pupils and return them to mainstream education in the shortest time possible. The projects liaise closely with specified schools in their catchment areas. Such concentrated and focused deployment of funds should lead to increased numbers of young people completing second level education and in that way most effectively assist in addressing the problem of early school leaving.
Dáil Éireann 571 Written Answers. Early School Leavers.