As part of a series of reviews of further education and training programmes, SOLAS commissioned an independent review of the national Youthreach programme, which was conducted by the ESRI. The report, which was launched on 17 June, provides a comprehensive evaluation of the national Youthreach programme and demonstrates the positive impact of Youthreach for learners.
The evaluation noted that demand for Youthreach across both Youthreach centres and community training centres has fallen by 11% in the period 2015 to 2017, with a further fall in demand in 2018. Some of this decline is related to the improved economic circumstances and availability of jobs. In addition, the school retention rate continues to improve with 91% of students completing their leaving certificate examinations.
The evaluation also found there is uneven geographical distribution of Youthreach places.
SOLAS has considered the key review findings and has developed a response document that sets out 17 recommendations to further improve and develop the Youthreach programme. These recommendations are framed in the context of the broader reform and integration of further education and training, FET, provision in general and the evolving strategy for the FET system. The recommendations include considering the issues of uneven geographical distribution in annual local and national system planning, as well as ETBs, reviewing the sustainability of all centres. In doing so, SOLAS and ETBs will be ensuring there is an appropriate balance of provision across levels one to six of the national framework of qualifications in providing both employment and progression opportunities to learners.