Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Students.

Jack Wall

Question:

1081 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans in place to assist pupils who have been determined disadvantaged after they leave primary school; the linkage there is between primary and secondary schools to assist such children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20529/00]

Supports for schools at both second and primary level designated as disadvantaged are aimed at targeting those areas with the greatest needs in order to maximise participation and the potential for achievement within the education system.

A range of supports has been put in place over the past two decades to support primary and second level schools designated as disadvantaged by my Department. The supports include the payment of enhanced capitation grants. In the case of many of the designated schools, ex-quota concessionary staffing is allocated and inclusion in the home/school/community liasion scheme has been offered to all designated schools.

In addition at second level, curricular reform, the introduction of the junior certificate school programme, the transition year programme and the leaving certificate applied have increased the range of options that are more responsive to some young people's needs.

The 8-15 year old early school leaver initiative was introduced for the school years 1998/99 and 1999/2000. Its purpose is to develop and test models for the delivery of supports to those young people who are most at risk of educational disadvantage with a view to the integration of such models, after structured evaluation, into mainstream policy and practice. The projects strand of this initiative involves 17 specific projects in 14 areas. I have decided to extend the existing 17 projects for a further phase, for the period 1 July 2000 until 31 August 2002. Funding of £2.82 million has been allocated to this initiative for the year 2000.
In June 1999 the stay in school retention initiative at second level was launched with 58 schools serving pupils and areas with higher than average levels of early school leaving invited to participate. This initiative represents a significant departure from traditional policy in that funding is being granted to targeted schools, on the basis of plans which they were helped to design themselves. The purpose of this initiative is to prevent early school leaving and raise senior cycle completion rates. At the end of May 2000 an additional 59 schools were invited to participate in the initiative.
The recently enacted Education Welfare Act, 2000 provides for the introduction of a comprehensive school attendance service nationally. The new Education Welfare Act includes specific measures for an effective tracking system so as to ensure that children who are at risk of dropping out of the system can be identified and early interventions put in place. Among the key objectives of the Act is the establishment of a single national authority, the National Educational Welfare Board, with responsibility for school attendance on a country wide basis. Education welfare officers employed by the authority will co-ordinate State services to children who have school attendance problems.