The School Completion Programme (SCP) is a targeted intervention aimed at those school communities identified through the Department of Education and Skills’ DEIS Action Plan for Educational Inclusion. The School Completion Programme aims to retain young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle and to generally improve the school attendance, participation and retention of its target cohort.
The school based projects within SCP provide a range of supports and interventions designed to support individual children identified by the Local Management Committee as being at risk of early school leaving within those school communities. This project model approach gives local communities the autonomy to devise creative and innovative approaches to address the needs of local young people most at risk of early school leaving.
In 2014 an allocation of €24.756m has been provided to the Child and Family Agency to deliver this programme. This supports 124 projects and related initiatives which operate across the country, including the St Finian's Project, to which the Deputy refers. I am advised that this project has a budget of €185,000 for the 2013 / 2014 school year to provide targeted supports to students in one post-primary school and five primary schools.
The Agency is responsible for the strategic and operational direction of the School Completion Programme. Within this remit the Agency manages the SCP budget and the allocation of funds to projects within the programme. I am advised that proposals have yet to be formulated by the Child and Family Agency in relation to funding for the 2014/2015 academic year. As an initial step, the Agency has recently invited all SCP Projects to commence planning for the next cycle of the programme within the available funding parameters. Within the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure the SCP is required to achieve cumulative savings of €5.5m over the period 2012 to 2014, of which €1.7m in savings is to be found in 2014.
A briefing on the 14/15 planning template was provided to Local Coordinators at recent Network meetings. Local Management Committees have been advised to examine all elements of expenditure and to prioritise the most effective interventions to support children’s educational outcomes. In addition, projects have been requested to examine means of maximising the capacity of the totality of schools’ DEIS resources, and linkages with area-based supports available through other relevant providers, to realise SCP objectives in the most efficient and economical way possible. The Agency will continue to work closely with management committees, schools and local SCP co-ordinators to assist projects through this process.
The Deputy will wish to note that a planned programme review of SCP has commenced. The objectives of the review are to identify best practice, to clarify roles and responsibilities and to build upon the valuable learning and experience to date across the programme. It is anticipated that the review will assist in identifying the reforms necessary to consolidate the programme on a sustainable footing for the future and ensure that available funds are targeted to those services which provide the greatest contribution to educational outcomes for pupils at risk of educational disadvantage.