Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Questions (45)

Seán Sherlock


45. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she is satisfied that the school completion programme is operating effectively. [25607/18]

View answer

Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Children)

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for being a fair-minded and decent man. I am asking the Minister whether she is satisfied that the school completion programme is operating effectively.

I thank the Deputy. As he is aware, the school completion programme has been under review. It has been identified that reforms are required and Tusla has been working on proposals and analysis of how that needs to be the case. I have received those. I have been engaged in a very intensive and deep process of trying to identify the best possible way to move forward in terms of the issues of human resources, governance and the programmes that are delivered themselves. I am in the middle of that process and I want to get it right. That is the first thing.

Second, in the context of the acknowledgement of the need for reform, at the same time I have met with a number of school completion co-ordinators, their principals and other members of the schools both in my constituency and throughout the country and I believe that in the circumstances and in the context of that acknowledged need for reform, they are continuing to do an excellent job with the students and the people they serve.

I am not satisfied with that answer, to be very honest about it. There are 470-odd primary schools. There have been cuts in counselling services. We have heard wonderful words like "review" and "reform" but I have not heard anything that I can say is meaningful. The school completion programme is not operating properly currently: it is operating sub-optimally. We need to hear something a little bit more robust and definitive from the Minister on what she is actually doing. She has had reports, proposals and analysis on HR and governance. I and the House want a straight answer to this question on what exactly it is that the Minister proposes to do. What is the current budget? Are there further cuts proposed to the school completion programme? Will there be an increase in the budget? How is it proposed to recruit more staff for the school completion programme? I have not heard any of that from the Minister in the reply.

What I have been saying to the Deputy is that we are working intensely on this issue and when we move forward, particularly with the human resource issues which have been very challenging in recent years, I will let the Deputy know. We are getting close to making some decisions in terms of a different type of engagement in that regard. Second, on governance, these are the issues that are still in front of me, working with principals and stakeholders. As the Deputy knows, I have held a number of meetings. I do not have a magic wand to say that right now there are changes that I am ready to go with but that does not mean that we are not working on them. This issue has been around for a long time and we will get it right and that is what I am determined to do.