James Reilly defends school completion programme

Minister says initiative benefits from being under remit of Child and Family Agency

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The school completion programme is more complex than the schools themselves, Minister for Children Dr James Reilly has told the Dáil.

“It also involves parents and their influence on the children, as well as having other activities going on in the school,’’ he said.

He was replying to Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who suggested the programme be transferred from his department to the Department of Education.

Ms O’Sullivan said that the teachers involved would support that view.

The programme aims to address early school-leaving and underachievement, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

Ms O’Sullivan said she was not criticising Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which has operational responsibility for the programme, but acknowledging its severe caseload.

“It does not make sense to give it additional work with children who, at certain points, do not need social workers, but teachers,’’ she said.

School initiatives

Dr Reilly said he had visited some of the schools involved in the programme and observed the wonderful initiatives around cooking, art, sculpture and other manual projects.

“For those children who have given up on the reading, writing and arithmetic side of education, this entices them back with other subjects that interest them and reintroduces other educational skills,’’ he said.

He said he had heard Ms O’Sullivan’s points before, but he believed the programme was best placed in an agency with a remit over a much broader area than just education.

The Minister said the programme provided targeted supports to approximately 36,000 children and young people and had been under Tusla’s remit since January of last year.

He said that its establishment brought together the educational welfare programmes, which had previously been under the remit of the former National Educational Welfare Board, as part of a new integrated response to meet the needs of children at risk of educational disadvantage.