Written Answers. - Youthreach Programme.

Conor Lenihan

Question:

220 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a trend whereby students at second level aged 15 years are now seeking to participate in the youthreach programme and senior Traveller training centres simply to avail of the training allowance payment and that this is adversely affecting school retention in some cases. [10973/03]

Conor Lenihan

Question:

221 Mr. C. Lenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the system of payment that operates under the youthreach and senior Traveller training centres programmes as it would appear that the payment itself acts as an incentive to leave mainstream secondary education. [10974/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 and 221 together.

Youthreach is the national response to the needs of unqualified early school leavers and is designed to offer a programme of integrated general education, vocational training and work experience. Youthreach targets unemployed early school leavers with no qualifications or poor qualifications in the 15-20 years age range. This group is known as priority group 1 or PG1.

Youthreach recruitment guidelines circulated to vocational education committees are as follows: a PG1 trainee will be in the age group 15-20 years and have left school, be unemployed, be aged between 15 and 20 years of age at the commencement of her-his engagement with youthreach, have no qualifications or have incomplete qualifications from junior cycle, that is, less than five grade Ds at ordinary level in the junior certificate or otherwise lack competencies or skills in the area of interpersonal communications, enterprise or motivation. Youthreach age and qualification criteria may be extended in the case of the following groups – priority group 2 or PG2: lone parents; referrals from former NRB funded courses now funded by FÁS; trainees who have been released from detention; trainees whose personal or domestic circumstances are such that a foundation education and training programme is the most appropriate option for them to pursue, qualifications notwithstanding; Travellers; Drug Court participants.

At present the courses are full-time, of 35 hours duration per week, and are available on a year round basis. A training allowance is payable to participants at different rates, depending on age. The rate of training allowance for trainees aged 18 years and over is linked to the maximum unemployment payment under the Department of Social and Family Affairs for an adult. An additional training bonus of €31.80 per week may be payable in certain circumstances. The programme operates in community training workshops funded by FÁS and in youthreach centres.

A similar programme in a culturally supportive environment is operated for Travellers in a network of senior Traveller training centres. There is no upper age limit in the senior Traveller centres in order to encourage parents to participate, given the influence this exerts on their children's participation in school.

Factors in early leaving school among Travellers most often surveyed are nomadism, insufficient achievement at primary level, their distinct culture and identity not being validated in the mainstream curriculum, housing and accommodation issues, including unsuitable conditions for home study, and reduced level of parental support. The reason most often cited by Travellers for enrolment in STTCs is that the programme is culturally supportive and provides education, training and work experience relating to their needs. While the payment of allowances are cited as reasons for remaining in training in youthreach and senior Traveller training centres, I have no evidence that such payments are a risk factor in early school leaving.
The efficacy of youthreach and senior Traveller training programmes is monitored on an annual basis. In the most recent survey, the progression rate of trainees from full-time youthreach and Traveller training courses to employment or further education and training was 75% and 59% respectively.