As the Deputy may be aware, this fund is the responsibility of my colleague, Deputy Brian Lenihan, Minister of State at my Department. The objective of the fund for the development of targeted educational responses to certain children at risk is to develop preventive and supportive programmes, which are targeted at children and young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage and social exclusion. A key focus of the initiative is the empowerment of local communities to develop innovative and flexible programmes that address identified needs of intended participants. Resources allocated under this initiative are used for the provision of a range of holistic supports to enable pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds to participate fully in school.
My Department introduced a new initiative this year – the school completion programme – incorporating the elements of best practice established by the eight – 15 early school leaver initiative and the stay in school retention initiative. The objective of this new programme is to provide a range of interventions in areas of disadvantage that support the retention of young people in education. The programme encompasses both first and second levels and will be managed in each of the areas selected by a group of representatives of relevant local interests. The main features of the programme will include the development of: an early response to the educational, social and personal needs of specifically targeted young people most at risk of leaving school early; a collaborative response to early school leaving by primary and post-primary schools together with relevant local statutory, voluntary and community bodies; in-school and out-of-school support; holiday provision.
The in-school and out-of-school supports being introduced as part of the remit of this new initiative include homework support for the 82 projects located in 22 counties invited to participate in the school completion programme.