Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions (295)

Thomas Byrne


295. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her responsibilities with regard to the mandatory school age. [42824/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy may be aware, the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 defines a child as a person resident in the state who has reached the age of 6 years and who has not reached the age of 16 years or who has not yet completed 3 years of post-primary education. This Act also established the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) and tasked it with implementing the provisions of this Act.

Responsibility for the NEWB was transferred from the Department of Education to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs on its establishment in 2011.

In January 2014 Tusla, the Child and Family Agency was established and as part of the remit of the Agency, it took on the functions of the former NEWB: chiefly the Educational Welfare Services (EWS). The EWS comprises the statutory functions relating to Educational Welfare Officers; the operationalisation of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme; and the funding of the School Completion Programme (SCP).

The statutory Education Welfare Service encompasses all recognised schools in the State. The abovementioned legislation mandates that children should be in school from ages 6 to 16 unless they are on the Section 14 register as being home educated or attending an independent school. Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) work with children and young people who are experiencing difficulties with school attendance. EWOs aim to ensure that concerns and problems around attendance are addressed before issues escalate. In doing so, EWOs seek to find solutions within a collaborative intervention framework involving children, their families, schools and other relevant agencies.

The Act also allows the EWS to prosecute a family in relation to school attendance issues should the family of a child not engage after being referred to Tusla after 20 days non attendance at school. Every effort is made to ensure the child is in receipt of his or her constitutional right to an education prior to legal proceedings being initiated.

The School Attendance Notice is a final legal notice stating that legal proceedings may be initiated if the family is not in compliance with the notice and the child does not attend school on each school day that the notice is in force. Should the child attend school on each school day that the notice is in force, legal proceedings will not be initiated.