The School Completion Programme (SCP) continues to deliver a valuable service for some of our most vulnerable young people at risk of early school leaving.
It was established in 2002 and became a programme operating under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme in 2005. Responsibility for the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) which included the SCP was transferred to my Department on its establishment in 2011. Operational responsibility for the SCP was transferred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency on its establishment in 2014.
Currently, SCP receives annual funding of €24.7 million. My Department works with the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) of Tusla to ensure necessary resources are available to support this programme and to ensure staffing levels are sufficient to deliver a high quality service to those young people most at risk of early school leaving.
From the Programme’s inception under the Department of Education and Skills up to €5,000 per annum was allowed for therapeutic supports for crisis or emergency needs as they arose for SCP participants. This recognised that many of the SCP participants experience adversity in their lives.
It should be noted that the SCP does not have a responsibility for funding school counsellors and therapeutic services. The SCP funding for school counsellors and therapeutic services were to be provided only in emergency or crisis cases for SCP participants.
Tusla (EWS) has advised me that they have reviewed the SCP plans submitted by the SCP project which works in Ladyswell and Corduff National Schools and there is no record of the employment of a school counsellor in plans submitted to Tusla for 2018/19 or in previous years.
My Department continues to work with Tusla (EWS) to ensure necessary resources are available to support the SCP programme. In recognition of the need for a strong policy platform for educational welfare services, including the School Completion Programme, I have requested my officials to establish a Task Group to support the further development and integration of these services. The work of this group is near completion and I am eager to ensure that output will result in a clear blueprint for the development of the three strands of the EWS, including the SCP so that its reach, resources and impact are maximised in supporting young people at risk of early school leaving.