Written Answers. - Early School Leavers.


178 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who drop out of school between primary and secondary; the procedures in place to ensure that all primary school children progress to second level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10372/00]

My Department is currently in the process of planning to extend the range of data gathered as part of the development of a comprehensive database on individual primary school pupils. The new database will provide critical information to support the implementation of policies and will also provide data for research and policy development purposes.

At present, my Department does not have a comprehensive database on pupils in the primary school sector and unfortunately therefore, the information sought by the Deputy is not available.

The development of a database on all primary school pupils is a very significant undertaking involving the collection and processing of information on 450,000 pupils from more than 3,300 primary schools. It will take at least three years to put the full database in place and an allocation of £4.5 million has been provided for this purpose over the next three years, including £500,000 in the current year.
The IT unit of my Department is currently preparing a development plan for the project and it is intended to implement a first phase in a pilot group of schools during the coming school year.
In addition the Deputy may also be aware that the Education (Welfare) Bill, which is currently being considered in committee in this House, will provide a new framework to address issues generally related to school attendance. The Bill provides for the establishment of a National Educational Welfare Board, with a general responsibility to ensure that "each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a prescribed minimum education". The legislation makes specific provision to track the attendance of all children at first and second-level, and particularly in the transition between first and second-level. The legislation will also include specific measures for the early identification and support of children at risk of dropping out of the school system. It is my hope that this legislation will be enacted before the summer recess.