The School Completion Programme (SCP) aims to retain young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle and to generally improve the school attendance, participation and retention of its target cohort. The SCP is one of three service strands being integrated into a continuum of education welfare 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.
In 2013 an allocation of €26.246 m 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 Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, published in December 2011, requires the SCP to achieve cumulative savings of €5.5 m over the period 2012 to 2014, of which €1.8 m in savings is to be found in 2013.
My Department has recently written to the Chairperson of each SCP in relation to the next cycle of the programme. Each Local Management Committee, which is responsible for the delivery of services to local students, is currently developing its 2013/2014 proposals for targeted interventions and supports. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), which operates under the remit of my Department, is providing assistance to each Local Management Committee in this process. The administrative and financial arrangements for the coming year are being finalised and will be confirmed to individual projects during the coming months.
The savings necessary in 2014 will be further considered in the context of the operational review which is to be conducted during the coming academic year. A core objective of the review will be to ensure that available funds are appropriately targeted to support those pupils most at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving. Work is already underway to gather comprehensive information relating to existing organisational arrangements across all local project structures. It is also proposed to procure external expertise to further support the review process. This review will assist to identify the reforms necessary to consolidate the programme on a sustainable footing in the coming years.
I remain committed to supporting the educational attainment of children and young people at risk of early school leaving through a variety of formal and informal support services.