I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 199 together.
The School Completion Programme (SCP) aims to retain young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle and to generally improve educational outcomes of its target cohort. The SCP is one of three services being integrated into a continuum of educational support services under the remit of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The SCP is a key programme under the Department of Education and Skills DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) action plan to address educational disadvantage.
In 2013 an allocation of €26.246m has been provided for the programme. This supports 124 projects and related initiatives which operate in 470 primary schools and 224 post-primary schools across the country to provide targeted supports to approximately 36,000 children and young people.
The review of the SCP was signalled in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, CRE 2012-2014. My Department is leading this operational review in conjunction with the National Educational Welfare Board, which is responsible for the operational management and direction of the Programme, and in consultation with the Department of Education and Skills. The objectives of the review are to identify best practice, to clarify roles and responsibilities and to build upon the valuable learning and experience to date across the programme. It is anticipated that the review will assist in identifying the reforms necessary to consolidate the programme on a sustainable footing for the future and ensure that available funds are targeted to those services which provide the greatest contribution to educational outcomes for pupils at risk of educational disadvantage. Harnessing the considerable expertise and experience of staff and management across the programme is central to the success of the review process and the terms of reference envisage appropriate opportunities for stakeholders to contribute to the review.
Work is already underway to gather comprehensive information relating to existing organisational arrangements across all local project structures. This work is a critical step in the review process as it will provide baseline data about the diversity of local arrangements and procedures in place given the development of projects since the programme’s inception in 2002.
My Department has worked with Pobal and the NEWB to develop an on-line survey which is designed to gather relevant information from projects around local governance, administration and employment arrangements. Detailed guidance for the exercise has issued to all projects. The survey provides the opportunity for local management to identify specific areas where they may need additional support. It is expected that the analysis of this data will be completed before the start of the next academic year.
It is proposed to procure external expertise to further support the review process. The terms of reference for this work are being finalised and it is anticipated that the project will proceed to tender shortly. The NEWB will manage the necessary procurement and contractual arrangements. My Department expects this external support to be in place by September, in time for the start of the academic year, and for the review to be completed during the 2013/2014 academic cycle of the programme.
It is my intention to publish a report on the outcome of the SCP review. The process necessary to drive any recommendations and monitor progress will be informed by the finding of the review.