Government accepts Labour Bill tackling school absenteeism among 4-5 year olds

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says disadvantaged children more likely to miss school

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the poor school attendance record of some children was not of their own making. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the poor school attendance record of some children was not of their own making. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Government has accepted a Seanad Labour Private Member’s Bill to tackle school absenteeism among children aged four and five years.

Currently, Tusla, the child and family agency, can only intervene in cases where children aged between six and 16 years have high levels of absenteeism from school.

Under the Education (Welfare) (Amendment) Bill 2017, moved on Tuesday by Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Tusla’s remit will extend to younger children.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said the poor school attendance record of some children, aged four and five years, was not of their own making.

A child from a disadvantaged background had a huge gap to make up, he added.

“People will always have difficulty reading, but they should never have difficulty reading because they are poor,’’ Mr Ó Ríordáin said.

He said where families were poor, in despair, or struggling to function, or in poverty, bringing children to school might not be a priority.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she supported the Bill, as did Minister for Education Richard Bruton.

She said their two departments would work closely together, along with Tusla’s educational welfare service, regarding any potential policy or resource implications.

Ms Zappone said the Bill would ensure extra support for children in primary school, but childcare changes already in train also offered other options for parents of very young children.

“Appropriate early intervention, allied with high quality early years services, is the best way to ensure that every child has a real and meaningful opportunity to ultimately realise their full potential,’’ she added.