A support scheme introduced 20 years ago has helped Ireland achieve one of the highest proportions of pupils completing secondary education, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
The latest official figures show that 91% of pupils complete secondary education in Ireland. OECD figures indicate that this is one of the highest figures in the developed world.
Mr Martin said the Leaving Curriculum, designed by the Ministry of Education in 2002, has played a key role in engaging students at risk of dropping out of school.
The program provides in-school, after-school, out-of-school and vacation support services aimed at improving student participation in education.
“There has been remarkable progress overall, even compared to our European partners,” Martin said.
“Everyone involved should be proud of the role the graduation program has played. »
He was speaking at an event organized by the Fórsa union on Wednesday to mark 20 years of the programme.
Fórsa general secretary and Irish Trades Union Congress president Kevin Callinan said that despite its achievements, the program remains “on the fringes of an extensive national education effort”.
Callinan said that was despite recent modest funding improvements, which he said were a first step in restoring the program after the deep cuts imposed during the financial crisis.
“We will need to do much more to adequately meet the needs of young people for whom graduation service is an essential pathway to fulfilling their educational and life potential,” Callinan said.
The school completion program involves tailored interventions that target students most at risk of dropping out of school and aims to strengthen engagement in education.
Georgia Grogan, a student from Swords, Co Dublin, studies politics and history at DCU, said the program has been instrumental in boosting her self-esteem.
“It’s only now that I realize how much support it gave me. I was at risk of dropping out of school. Some of the biggest supports were more emotional and helped me focus,” says -she.
“My project officer at St Finian’s was like having support to guide you through the days when you lose sight of your goals…I always wanted to go to college, but outside forces were getting in the way. control and I felt a sense of impostor syndrome. But my project officer helped me realize my potential.
“I remember one day in fifth grade when I wanted to give in and I felt like I would never get the points. But my project officer sat me down, showed me all my notes, and said, “Does that sound like someone who doesn’t have one?” I was crying and upset, but this touch of realism really helped me.
James Kavanagh, education completion co-ordinator, said members have maintained service delivery to vulnerable young people despite severe setbacks, including funding cuts in 2009 that have yet to recover.
“The demand for our services increases every year, and the post-Covid school environment is full of new challenges for young people in education. In the 20 years of service, we can see the positive impact the service has had on the children in our schools,” he said.
“We are now making a habit of meeting former students who, as adults, are able to tell us of the difference the program has made to their educational experience.
“We remain committed to providing the support they need, and our goal as a trade union branch is to ensure that the government and funding bodies make the resources available,” he said.