Education and schooling are critical in the lives - and indeed life chances - of children and young people. As part of the range of responses in place that support children in completing their schooling, the School Completion Programme is key. This programme provides learner-centred and holistic supports for young people who are at risk of leaving school early. Indeed, I believe that this programme, along with the Home school Community Liaison Scheme and the DEIS programme, has played an important part in the achievement of our high rates of school retention.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to prepare a School Completion Strategy. Having considered the existing and emerging needs in this area, I directed my officials to take a strategic approach to the subject of school engagement and retention. I am pleased to say that my Department has produced a Blueprint for the Development of Educational Welfare and Alternative Education, Assessment and Registration Services, which is currently being consulted on.
This policy platform comprehends the both the strategic and operational actions that need to be advanced to ensure the best possible system of supports for tackling educational engagement and retention are in place and integrated.
My Department works with the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) in Tusla to ensure that necessary resources are available to support this programme and to ensure staffing levels are sufficient to deliver a high quality service for those young people most at risk of early school leaving, particularly in DEIS schools. In Budget 2019 I secured an additional €500,000 in funding for the EWS and the Alternative Education Assessment and Registration Service. And I will continue to lead on advancing supports both in policy and provision in this crucial area.