Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality and TD for Kildare South Fiona O’Loughlin has called on the Government to re-examine the current supports that are in place to prevent children from leaving school early.

Deputy O’Loughlin made the comments after receiving new information which shows that just 200 secondary schools in the entire country offer the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP). The JCSP aims to provide a curriculum framework that assists schools and teachers in making the Junior Certificate more accessible to those young people who may leave school without formal qualifications.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “Great work has been done in recent years in tackling the issue of children dropping out of school early. However the latest figures available show that 1 in 10 students still fails to make it into the Leaving Certificate Curriculum Cycle. Accordingly it’s important that the Department of Education continues to support children who are at risk of leaving school early and that process begins by ensuring vulnerable children are given all the support they need to complete the Junior Certificate.

“The JCSP was first introduced in 1996 and was initially a great success. However the uptake of the programme has not reached its full potential in recent years. The latest information I have received from the Department of Education shows that just 200 schools out of a total of approximately 1,100 secondary schools offer the programme. The availability of the programme is also unevenly distributed across the country. The end result is that some children who are at risk of leaving school early do not have access to the supports they need to continue with their education.

“I have spoken with many parents and teachers who have expressed dissatisfaction with the current structure of the JCSP. They point out that the course hasn’t been reformed significantly since 1996. There is a feeling that students who complete the course simply do not get a meaningful qualification. It’s as a result of this that many schools decide not to offer the course which in turn means that many children at risk of leaving school early do not get the support they need to continue with their education.

“The Government needs to launch a review of the JCSP and determine the steps that need to be taken to make it fit for purpose. The fact that there is currently such a small take-up of the course indicates that reform is needed,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.