As part of a series of reviews of Further Education and Training programmes, SOLAS commissioned an independent review of the National Youthreach Programme which was conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). The review report, launched on 17 June, provides a comprehensive evaluation of the National Youthreach Programme and, making use of both quantitative and qualitative data, demonstrates the positive impact of Youthreach for learners.
There are significant supports in place within the school system to support retention of students to the end of post-primary. This includes the comprehensive package of measures delivered through DEIS and the various elements of the School Completion programme managed by Tusla. There are also formal statutory mechanisms for follow up by Tusla in respect of students under the age of 16. School retention rates been steadily improving and 91% of learners now complete senior cycle.
However, there is no formal mechanism in place to refer early school leavers over the age of 16 into second chance education. The evaluation noted that the referral process to Youthreach was often through informal networks and, although centres typically had good engagement with schools and services, steps should be taken to ensure that all early school leavers who are interested in Youthreach have the opportunity to avail of it. My Department will be engaging with SOLAS and other partners on the implementation of this recommendation.