Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
563. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of pupils who were suspended or expelled from primary schools in the past ten years; the number of pupils who missed more than 20 days in primary school during the school year 2010-11; and the total number of pupils in the primary school system for 2010-11. [26884/11]
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) was established under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 as the statutory body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the Board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.
As the Deputy may be aware a number of children focused services, including the National Educational Welfare Board, have been brought together under the responsibility of my Department. The rationale for incorporating the NEWB under the new Department’s responsibility is to improve engagement with other agencies and services working with children and families and to deliver a consistent approach in the development of policy and services aimed at children, including those who have difficulties participating and benefiting from the education system.
Each year all schools in Ireland receive guidance from the NEWB on reporting of student absences and expulsions. In addition, NEWB provides guidance to schools as required under Section 22 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 to assist schools to develop appropriate local strategies and measures for the purposes of fostering an appreciation of learning among students and encouraging regular attendance at school. Schools are required to submit four Student Absence Reports at intervals during the school year and one Annual Attendance Report at the end of the academic year. The Annual Attendance Report is submitted by each school when it closes for the summer and gives overall absence information for the entire school population for that school year. This report is also available to parents. As part of this report, schools are asked to give the total number of students who were suspended during the school year.
The 2003/2004 school year is the first school year for which validated annual attendance data is available from the Board. This data is a benchmark for school attendance and now constitutes a national data base which can be used to monitor non-attendance, expulsion and suspension in all of the country’s primary and post-primary schools.
Schools are also obliged to report absences to the Educational Welfare Officer (EWO) in specific circumstances such as where a child is absent for 20 days or more, where a child is expelled or suspended for six days or more cumulatively, or where the school generally has concerns about the educational welfare of a child. This obligation exists to protect children’s educational welfare as evidence shows that poor school attendance is linked to early school leaving.
Data for the school year 2010/11 is in the final stages of collection from schools. Analysis of attendance data in respect of the 2009/10 school year is currently being carried out by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of the NEWB. All data gathered needs to be checked for accuracy before publication and data for the year 2009/10 is currently undergoing this detailed verification process. I am advised by the Board that it anticipates the report for 2009/10 will be available in the coming weeks.
Tables (i) to (iii), inclusive, set out the relevant data for the period 2003 to 2009. As the Deputy will note the data has remained relatively stable for the last number of years. Policy interventions and supports take time to positively modify behaviours and alter patterns so a significant change in overall attendance between any one year and the next would not be expected. I have requested the NEWB to forward the 09/10 data directly to the deputy when available.
The question relating to the total number of pupils in the primary school system for 2010/11 is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills. However, his Department advises that there are 509,652 young people enrolled at Primary level for the 2010/2011 school year. This number includes pupils with special educational needs in special classes and special schools.
Please Note: The data in Tables (i) to (iii) includes the numbers of schools and students on which the calculations are based. Not all schools provide usable data on various aspects so the number of schools and students may vary slightly between tables as a result.
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