Written answers

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Early School Leavers

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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215. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied); the way in which she plans to address the anticipated increase in early school leavers in the area; if there are plans to provide more NEET supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17787/21]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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DEIS – Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools is the main policy initiative of my Department of Education to address educational disadvantage at school level.

In the 2020/21 academic year there are 887 schools in the DEIS Programme serving over 185,000 pupils - 689 Primary and 198 Post Primary.

My Department’s spend on DEIS in 2021 is over €150million, which includes over €26 million for the School Completion Programme (SCP). The desired impact of the SCP is the retention of a young person to Leaving Certificate, equivalent qualification or suitable level of educational attainment which enables them to transition into further education, training or employment.

My Department’s investment in 2021 includes providing for;

- 419 Home School Community Liaison Coordinators serving 539 schools, catering for approximately 156,000 pupils.

- Additional posts for DEIS Band 1 primary schools to allow for a reduced pupil teacher ratio.

- Curriculum supports

- Priority access to continuing professional development

- School Excellence Fund - DEIS

- DEIS grants and enhanced book grants.

As part of the Budget 2021 I announced the following additional measures to tackle educational disadvantage;

- An extension of the School Completion Programme to include 14 urban primary and 14 post-primary schools newly included in DEIS in 2017, costing €,600,000 in 2021 and €1 million over a full year

- A 5% increase in funding for the School Completion Programme to support the attendance and participation of vulnerable learners and those at risk of education disadvantage, costing €780,000 in 2021 and €1.3 million over a full year

- A reduction of the enrolment threshold for the allocation of an additional Deputy Principal in DEIS post-primary schools, from 700 to 600 pupils allowing for an additional Deputy Principal allocation to 13 DEIS post-primary schools.

In addition, work is underway in detailing proposals for the provision of a summer programme in 2021 to include DEIS schools.

Tusla Education Support Service (TESS), which includes Home School Community Liaison Coordinators, Educational Welfare Officers and School Completion Programme staff play a key role in supporting pupils at risk of educational disadvantage and on supporting the return to school of all students. TESS staff will continue to engage with students and families identified by schools as needing additional support, and will remain in ongoing contact with school principals to identify students who may need support.

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for further and higher education falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. I am advised that student supports are in place across further and higher education to make the transition back into education as easy as possible for the individual. Further education and training currently offers opportunities to many young people, through bespoke provision such as Youthreach which is aimed at early school leavers. Most learners on these courses meet the Youth Guarantee criteria. In addition, a young person from the age of 16 can apply to begin an apprenticeship.

There has been a significant increase in the numbers of people who now find themselves not in employment, education or training as a result of Covid-19, and who are in need of upskilling. A range of measures were introduced as a response to upskilling and reskilling needs of individuals and businesses through the July Jobs Stimulus and Budget 2021. These measures are providing 35,000 education and training places at a cost of €100 million to help those who were displaced by the effects of Covid-19. A further 15,000 places were announced as part of the skills package in Budget 2021. Combined these measures include places on the Skills to Complete initiative, Springboard+, the Human Capital Initiative, additional places through Skillnet supported programmes, funding of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation scheme, the roll-out of retrofit training across the country and the expansion of the range of short-duration, part-time and online upskilling and reskilling offerings available for recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Further information can be found at . The Right Course is a one stop shop for businesses, employees or unemployed persons and outlines the further and higher education options and supports available to them. The Right Course website draws together information on the wide range of services available from a variety of state- sponsored agencies and service providers into one central resource. The pages provide signposting to providers and contact details for those seeking further information.’

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