11 Apr 2019, 10.11

The Joint Committee on Education and Skills examined the Home School Community Liaison Scheme, a central component of the Department of Education and Skills’ DEIS - Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools - which aims to tackle educational disadvantage.

The Committee has detailed its recommendations today in the report on the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL).  The report reflects the Committee’s view that it is imperative to continue to invest in this vital resource, acknowledging the impact it has made on the students and families who avail of it and would like to see it expanded to include certain at-risk children that are currently not covered by the scheme.

Committee Chair Fiona O’Loughlin TD said: “This report will hopefully kick-start the discussion around the important role which the Community Liaison Scheme plays. All DEIS urban primary and DEIS post-primary schools are currently included in the HSCL Scheme, which serves 528 schools. The 400 full-time HSCL Coordinators are teachers in these schools, assigned to HSCL, to work primarily with the most significant adults in the child’s life, so that they can better support children’s attendance at school, enhance their participation in education and develop positive attitudes to life-long learning for both child and parent.”

The Report’s recommendations include:
•    Continued commitment to investment and a renewed vision is provided to ensure it responds to the increas¬ing needs of pupils and families living in challenging contexts.
•    Consideration is given to expanding the allocation of HSCL teachers in areas that have a high concentration of Traveller pupils, including non-DEIS schools.
•    Courses for parents should be facilitated in all schools with a HSCL teacher.
•    Provision of interpreters should be made and not left solely to the school if an interpreter is necessary, perhaps the establishment of an approved interpreter “database” could be considered.
•    HSCL scheme should be expanded to avoid those with special needs not being able to avail of this service.

The scheme identifies children at risk of not reaching their potential in the educational system because of family-based issues; focuses directly on the significant adults in children’s lives and seeks direct benefits for the children themselves; examines attendance patterns, in order to maximize student attendance, participation and retention, and develops the pupil-parent-teacher relationship.

In addition to two Home School Community Liaison Teachers, representatives from the following organisations contributed to the Committee’s examination; Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI); Department of Education and Skills; Foróige; TUSLA and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO).

The HSCL was originally established by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in 1990, transferred to the then newly established Child and Family Agency, Tusla, in 2014. The 416 full-time HSCL co-ordinators are all teachers in the designated schools and are assigned for a five-year term to HSCL duties.

HSCL coordinators work in an integrated way with all other support services, particularly School Completion Programme staff and Educational Welfare Officers, to implement a whole-school approach to improving attendance, participation and retention in education for the most marginalised and educationally disadvantaged pupils. The work of HSCL coordinators is varied, and there are now nearly 4,000 children in homeless accommodation across the state who find their education impacted by the housing crisis.

HSCL coordinators also have a critical role in supporting the development, implementation, evaluation and review of the school’s DEIS Action Plan, particularly through parental involvement in education and relevant initiatives and interventions that are designed to improve literacy, numeracy and positive engagement.

For DEIS schools included in the HSCL Scheme, the HSCL Coordinator plays a critical role.

The Committee heard from the Department of Education and Skills that the underlying vision and thrust of the HSCL scheme is preventative; therefore, it seeks to promote and develop real partnership between parents, teachers and communities.  

The Committee was told that some parents are so isolated during the hours at which their children are in school, that visits from the HSCL teacher may be their only social interaction.

Furthermore, the current remit of the HSCL role is not sufficient for the level of engagement required to adequately support members of the Travelling community, who face specific barriers in progressing through and remaining within the education system.

To read the report view the committee page here


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