I propose to take Questions Nos. 515 to 518, inclusive, together.
Youthreach is an education and training programme delivered in out of school settings to young people aged 16 – 20 who have left the mainstream school system early. It is a further education programme operated by Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The programme aims to provide young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to participate fully in society and progress to further education, training and employment. Certification is available to all learners in Youthreach mainly at levels 1-4 on the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Framework.
In 2018 SOLAS appointed the ESRI to complete an independent evaluation of the national Youthreach programme. The report can be accessed here: youthreach-evaluation-final-june-20019.pdf (solas.ie). Work relating to Youthreach, as recommended in the ESRI’s report, is currently underway and will involve consultation with stakeholders involved in Youthreach provision.
The staff cohort in Youthreach is made up of Youthreach Co-ordinators, Youthreach Resource Persons and teachers. Youthreach Co-ordinators and Resource Persons have their own terms and conditions, including rates of pay, which are set out in Youthreach-specific contracts. Youthreach Co-ordinators and Resource Persons are a separate and distinct grade to teachers. Accordingly, they do not require to be registered with the Teaching Council, which is the body with statutory authority under the Teaching Council Acts 2001-2015 for the professional regulation, including registration, of teachers in the State. In addition, Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act, 2001 does not apply to Youthreach Centres as they do not fall within the definition of recognised school.
The Youthreach programme requires staff who are flexible, multi-disciplined and experienced. While relevant qualifications are desirable, no qualifications are specified for staff working in the programme. This is intended to give ETBs maximum flexibility to recruit staff with the combination of personal qualities and professional skills most likely to meet the often complex needs of participating learners.
A union representing Youthreach Co-ordinators and Youthreach Resource Persons has submitted a claim in respect of both grades. Officials from my Department and the Department of Education are engaging with the trade union on this claim under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission. This is the most appropriate place for that engagement to happen.