Report “clearly states the success of the programme”
IMPACT trade union’s School Completion Programme (SCP) branch has welcomed the study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) into the SCP which was published today (Wednesday 7th October 2015).
The SCP was established in 2002 and provides strategic support to vulnerable children, enabling them to complete their second level education. The programme is made up of 124 local projects, which work in 470 primary schools and 224 secondary schools nationwide.
IMPACT’s SCP branch chair, Cáit Ni Mhurchu, said that that the ESRI report clearly states the success of the programme. “This report highlights, as one of our strengths, that SCP has added a whole new dimension to the way schools operate, and acknowledges this new dimension of community that the service provides to schools.
“The study recognises the value of being able to access vital information about the family and home life of children in the programme, the opportunities arising from a less formal communication with children and parents, and the immediate support from the SCP counselling service. These are all key components of the service we provide,” she said.
Ms Ni Mhurchu, who works with the programme in Kilkenny, said that the ESRI’s findings were an important milestone for SCP, as the programme had suffered very significant cuts since 2009. Initial funding in 2002 was set at approximately €32 million. This has now been reduced to around €24 million, and has forced many SCPs to suspend some elements of the programme.
The ESRI study found that expenditure cuts have curtailed SCP provision at a time of growing need at school level, and was identified as a significant weakness in the study. The study states that the pattern of funding cuts was at odds with international evidence that early intervention is likely to have a greater impact, and be more cost effective, than remedial intervention after disengagement and drop-out from school.
The study also cites governance as a weakness of the programme. James Kavanagh, a member of the union’s branch executive who works with the SCP programme in Swords, County Dublin, said that the union has campaigned for necessary reforms to address SCP governance issues since 2006, and that the union welcomed the fact that this issue had been highlighted in the ESRI study.
Mr Kavanagh said that the study recommends that all coordinators and project staff should be employed centrally for reasons of accountability and equity, a view shared by the union. The study also suggests that SCP is a crucial complement to DEIS provision in schools.
The union said that the publication of the ESRI study will add further to the current debate as to which government department or agency should develop SCP into the future.
SCP was devised by the then Department of Education and Science in 2002 and moved to the newly formed Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2011. It was subsumed into Tusla in 2014.
Responding to recent calls in the Dáil for the programme to return to the Department of Education and Skills, Minister for Children, Dr. James Reilly, said, “With regard to the current location of the programme, I do not have a closed mind, but it is a very important programme and one that I strongly support. Its value is very much proven.” [Questions to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dáil Eireann 6 May, 2015]