Tuesday, 21 October 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
194. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the most recent statistics which exist for school completion at second level; the remit of the school completion programme; the way in which the programme operates; the way in which schools are grouped within the programme; the number of groups in existence; the level of funding for the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23839/03]
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; approximately 8,900 of those who sat the junior certificate did not sit the leaving certificate; and approximately 12,500 – 18.2% – young people leave school annually without the leaving certificate.
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 school-going age, both in and out of school, and arranging supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes.
The school completion programme necessitates the establishment of local management groups to oversee the project at local level, involving both post-primary and primary schools together with relevant local statutory, voluntary and community bodies, the local drugs task forces and county-city development boards. The local management groups are required to assess the needs of marginalised educationally disadvantaged young people at local level and devise integrated costed focused targeted retention plans that support these young people in their school, home and community life.
Sites for participation in the programme were selected on the basis of a detailed analysis of pupil retention rates at second level using the Department's post-primary pupils database. Based on this analysis and having regard to the funding available, 82 project sites were selected. The project sites consist of one or more second-level schools and their major feeder primary schools. At present, 400 schools have been included in the SCP – 112 post-primary and 288 primary – and total funding of €23 million has been provided for the programme in 2003. Significant additional funding was made available under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 with the assistance from the ESF fund for the expansion of this initiative.
A total of 53 SSRI schools, which were not selected for inclusion in the project strand of the school completion programme, will continue to be funded under the stay in school retention strand of the programme up to 31 August 2005.
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