I am very conscious that the School Completion Programme delivers a valuable service for some of our most vulnerable young people. I am also conscious of the recommendations made in a number of reports, including the ESRI Report, in relation to the governance of the Programme.
With this in mind, the Board of Tusla convened an expert panel to identify and examine a potential revised model of good practice and governance of the School Completion Programme.
The panel comprised an external legal expert, representation of Tusla Educational Welfare Service, Finance, HR and Legal units, representatives from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Education and Skills and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It was chaired by the Tusla CEO.
The expert panel has concluded its work. When I examined its findings, I decided to carry out some further discussions with a number of other stakeholders. To this end, I hosted a very informative School Completion Consultation event in Farmleigh House on January 29th last.
Matters discussed included best practice and governance within the School Completion Programme. There was a range of views expressed as to how both these elements could be improved to ensure that the best service possible is delivered to those who need it.
Following the Farmleigh event I have asked the facilitator for the day to do some additional work on a possible way forward, I have received this input very recently.
I have deliberated carefully over this process for some time because the issues are complex and I want to achieve the best possible results for the young people who use the service and for the professionals who deliver it. I wish to see plans for the development of the SCP advanced in this quarter.
I am very much aware of the positive outcomes that have been achieved within the School Completion Programme.
For example, the proportion of students in DEIS schools who completed the senior cycle has increased from 68% in 2006/2007 to 82% by 2016. This illustrates the benefit of the programme.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department and Tusla Educational Welfare Service are fully committed to the future of the School Completion Programme and will continue to work to ensure that it will deliver the best possible outcomes for young people at risk of early school-leaving.