(Dublin West): Will the Minister reconsider this? As was said before the debate was adjourned, it is a matter of the board taking the initiative to encourage local networks. It does not tie it down to specifics. The amendment should be made to the legislation because the type of local networking envisaged would help promote coherent and consistent support for schools, pupils and parents. For example, a survey conducted in west Dublin in an area badly-hit economically found that there was an average non-attendance of children under 15 in the school system of 13%, while the average in a more well-to-do area of west Dublin was about 7%. Local liaison would play a crucial role in dealing with that type of disadvantage.
It would also play a crucial role in helping to end one of the most scandalous wastes of public resources which is that the majority of school buildings, which are publicly-owned, are closed from 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock in the afternoon when they could be utilised by local networks as community resources and facilities. If there was a more organised and structured way of doing this, a new resource could be made available to the local community of school buildings and their related resources. Deprived communities are struggling to create community centres in their areas.
This amendment would be of great assistance to educational welfare officers. It is critical that these people are brought on stream quickly and that resources are allocated so that they can assist local networks of parents, teachers and groups to come to grips with the problems of non-attendance and other issues.