Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ceisteanna (101)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

101. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) is being closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18285/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Education provision on an inclusive basis is a fundamental principle of our education and training system. Ensuring every child is supported and given the opportunity to reach their full potential is a key priority for this Government and my Department is committed to improving educational outcomes for members of the Traveller and Roma communities. 

As the Deputy is aware the school referred to is a school with Special School designation dating from a period when separate education provision for members of the Traveller community was the norm.  The phasing out of segregated education provision for Traveller children began in 2006 in accordance with Government policy which was developed in consultation with Traveller representative groups and education partners.  St Thomas’s is the only remaining education centre in the country catering for post-primary age Traveller students on a segregated basis.  

My Department has been engaging with the Patron of St Thomas’s for many years to progress the transfer of its student cohort to the mainstream school system in line with this agreed national policy. (As with all schools under private patronage, the decision in relation to school closure, amalgamation etc. ultimately rests with the Patron).  

In order to ensure a smooth and effective transition of provision for students, my officials are engaging with the school Patron and the Educational Welfare Service of Tusla in relation to future education provision for the current student cohort in St Thomas’s. Tusla’s Educational Welfare Service is working with parents and the school to assist with the sourcing of alternative school places for the current enrolment, including 2 students at Leaving Certificate level who would be due to sit exams in 2019.  Now that students at the school are progressing to Leaving Certificate it is particularly important that these students would have access to the full curriculum and associated supports in order to maximize their opportunities to progress to further and higher education and employment.

Current overall policy on Traveller education is being progressed within the framework of National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021.  The Strategy has a particular emphasis on improving Traveller engagement with education and my Department is working with relevant Government Departments and agencies and Traveller representative Groups to progress Strategy actions aimed at improving education outcomes for all Travellers, including the current student cohort of St Thomas’s School.