The problem of early school leaving has been of major concern to my Department for some time.
In 1987 an inter-departmental committee composed of representatives from my Department and the Department of Labour considered the problems of early school leavers in great detail, and received representations and submissions from a number of groups concerned.
The report of the committee was published in January 1988. The committee recommended a number of measures which were aimed, firstly, at identifying potential unqualified early school leavers with a view to taking preventative action within the school system and, secondly, at the provision of vocational training programmes for young persons who have left the system. The recommendations of the committee have been implemented by my Department including the provison of the Youthreach programme which is specifically targeted at young people alienated from the normal school system. Progress on the various measures is being closely monitored at both local level and within my Department.
A recent questionaire sent to all post-primary schools, in the context of provision for disadvantaged pupils, sought information on pupils likely to leave school without any formal educational qualification. This data will be taken into account in considering the granting of additional resources to disadvantaged schools.
I am satisfied that the level of monitoring at present in place will ensure that these measures are targeted properly, and that they are receiving adequate financial support.