Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
School Completion Programme
Michael Colreavy (Sligo-North Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
Question 92: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the review of the school completion programme; if she will provide a commitment that this will not be negatively impacted by cuts to DEIS schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8067/12]
Frances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Children; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
The School Completion Programme (SCP) is an initiative that aims to have a positive impact on the levels of pupil retention in primary and second level schools and on the number of pupils who successfully complete the Senior Cycle, or equivalent. The majority of schools supported by the School Completion Programme receive this assistance as part of the School Support Programme, under the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) initiative.
The SCP targets individual young people of school-going age, both in and out of school, and arranges supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes. It is based on a project model which takes an integrated approach to the aforementioned matters involving not only primary and post primary schools, but also parents and relevant statutory, voluntary and community agencies.
Although the 2012 Estimates process was the first for my Department, I have had to find savings as part of the national effort to address Ireland’s fiscal situation. With regard to the SCP the Comprehensive Expenditure Report identifies the requirement for savings of 6.5% per annum over the period 2012-2014. This equates to a saving of €2m in the Programme in 2012.
As a first step in considering how to achieve these savings, my Department and the National Educational Welfare Board will complete a major review of the SCP by mid 2012. The review is being undertaken in conjunction with the Board’s current work to develop an integrated national approach to educational support services. This review will enhance the ongoing process of integrating the programme within a single national approach to attendance, participation and retention in schools.
I remain committed to supporting those children and young people most in need and in particular most at risk of early school leaving. Indeed a core objective of the review is to ensure that funds are appropriately targeted in this regard. I also appreciate that the achievement of these savings will require difficult trade-offs but it is anticipated that the review will identify operational efficiencies and other reforms which may serve to mitigate the impact of necessary savings.
The broader issue of any adjustments to the School Support Programme is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills, given that responsibility for DEIS policy resides with his Department.