Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
332. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his plans to address school absences in view of the results of the annual attendance report for the 2017 to 2018 school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30237/20]
As the Deputy may be aware, Tusla Education Support Services (TESS) is responsible for addressing issues in relation to participation, retention and attendance in schools.
Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) work with young people and their families who are experiencing difficulty with school attendance. The main priority of their work is around the welfare of children and young people and on ensuring that concerns and problems around attendance are addressed before attendance becomes a crisis issue. School Principals can make a referral to TESS when concern arises in relation to non attendance of a particular student. Currently TESS has 100 EWO’s in post.
The 2017/2018 Annual Attendance Report indicates that non-attendance rates in school remain broadly stable over the past five academic years from 2013/2014 to 2017/2018. There was a slight increase in primary school absences in 2017/2018 compared to 2016/2017 and a similar slight decrease in post-primary school absences in the same period.
All schools have a School Attendance Strategy in place and attendance is a central theme of DEIS planning with all DEIS schools required to set targets for improved school attendance. Non-attendance rates continue to be higher in DEIS Band 1 primary schools and DEIS post-primary schools when compared to other schools.
For the first time in 2017/2018 schools were asked to indicate if absences were explained or unexplained and this indicated that over 60% of absences in primary schools were explained compared to just over 50% in post-primary schools.
In November 2019, TESS rolled out a very successful campaign to promote positive school attendance called “Every School Day Counts” and over 2,000 schools ran initiatives in their schools to promote positive attendance as part of the national campaign.
As the Deputy will be aware, An Taoiseach announced, as part of his speech on the formation of Government on Saturday 27 June, that “Educational welfare functions will be returned to the Department [of Education].” Discussions are currently underway between the two Departments in that regard.