Early School Leavers- Strategies and Support

Facilitator Profile
Jim McVeigh MSc Education is currently the Development Officer for
Youth and Sport with Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and
Training Board. He began his career in education as a Guidance
counsellor with County Offaly VEC in Tullamore. Jim has worked with
City of Dublin VEC and the Curriculum Development unit devising
and implementing programmes for early school leavers. He was
involved in the major European initiatives on education for youth at
risk, Pathways, and Espair and is currently rolling out the Alternative
Learning Programme. Jim is a member of the National Youth Work
Advisory Committee as a representative of Education and Training
Board Ireland.
Early School Leavers- Strategies and Support
Ken Robinson-How to Escape Educations
Death Valley
The New Environment
Background to Early School Leaving
The Early School Leaver Profile
Strategies for dealing with Early School
The Youth Work Option
The New Environment
Junior Cycle Student Award(JSCA)
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
(National Children's Strategy)
Child and Family Agency (TUSLA)
(Incorporating NEWB and School Completion)
Youth Guarantee
Five National outcomes for Children and Young People
Child and Family Agency(TUSLA)
Child Protection & Welfare
Social Work Services
Alternative Care
Services for Children in Care and Adoption
Family Support & Early Years Services
Prevention, Partnership and Family Support. Early Years Services.
Psychology Services
Educational Welfare Services
Working to secure better educational outcomes for children and
young people
Domestic, Sexual & Gender Based Violence
Do you ever feel unsafe in your own home, if you need someone
to talk to help is available
Post Primary
The post-primary education sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive
schools .Secondary schools are privately owned and managed. Vocational schools are stateestablished and administered by Education and Training Boards (ETBs), while community and
comprehensive schools are managed by Boards of Management of differing compositions.
Post-primary education consists of a three-year Junior Cycle (lower secondary), followed by a two or
three year Senior Cycle (upper secondary), depending on whether the optional Transition Year (TY) is
taken. Students usually begin the Junior Cycle at age 12. The Junior Certificate examination is taken
after three years. The main objective of the Junior Cycle is for students to complete a broad and
balanced curriculum, and to develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to proceed to
Senior Cycle education.
The Senior Cycle caters for students in the 15 to 18 year age group. It includes an optional Transition
Year, which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle. TY provides an opportunity for students to
experience a wide range of educational inputs, including work experience, over the course of a year
that is free from formal examinations.
During the final two years of Senior Cycle students take one of three programmes, each leading to a
State Examination: the traditional Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme
(LCVP) or the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA
Young people who for one reason or another have
found themselves at a distance from the formal
education system without the supports or values
from parents, relatives or friends that easily permit
an access route back.
The longer such young people find themselves in
this position the more difficult it becomes for them
to return to school. They have lost contact with
friends, are behind with school work and have
often become involved in activities and routines
that are not compatible with the school regime.
Often these young people are still engaged with
school at some level and that any action which
shortens the length of time away from education is
a positive step.
About 16.5% of post-primary students were absent
for 20 days or more during the school year. Based
on population numbers this is approximately
52,500 students.
Analysis of School Attendance Data in Primary and Post-Primary Schools, 2010/11 Report
to the National Educational Welfare Board
Every year, around 9,000 young people leave school before taking the
Leaving Certificate. The proportion of young people staying on in school has
remained relatively stable since the mid 1990s.
Early leaving rates differ markedly by social class background, with much
higher levels among young people from working-class and unemployed
households. Working-class young men are particularly likely to leave school
early. Disengagement from school is therefore a significant source of
inequality in Irish society.
Early school leaving has its roots in early experiences of educational failure
and struggle with schoolwork, often as far back as primary level.
Drop-out rates tend to be higher in schools with a concentration of students
from disadvantaged backgrounds
No Way Back? The Dynamics of Early School Leaving
Drop-out rates vary considerably across individual schools, even taking
into account differences in their student profiles.
Ability grouping (allocating students to base classes according to their
academic ability) has a significant effect on school drop-out. Students
allocated to lower stream classes experience a climate of low
expectations and negative student-teacher interaction, and are much
more likely to leave school early.
The school climate, that is, the quality of relations between teachers and
students, emerges as a key factor in young people staying in education.
Negative interaction with teachers is commonly reported by early school
leavers, with many feeling they did not receive the help they needed or
were not listened to.
In some cases, school disciplinary procedures, such as suspension or
expulsion, can trigger early school leaving.
Poor interaction with peers, through being isolated or bullied, also
contributes to early school leaving.
No Way Back? The Dynamics of Early School Leaving
Early school leaving is generally the culmination of
a longer-term gradual withdrawal from school,
marked by non-attendance and truancy.
High-impact personal issues, such as
bereavement, may trigger early school leaving,
reflecting the complexity of the circumstances
faced by some young people.
Job opportunities may precipitate early school
leaving but only where young people are already
disaffected with school.
No Way Back? The Dynamics of Early School Leaving
Most early leavers experience unemployment at some
point after leaving school. Where they obtain jobs, they
tend to be insecure and/or in low-skilled areas. They
are therefore particularly vulnerable to the current
economic conditions.
Early school leavers rely heavily on personal networks
to obtain apprenticeships and jobs.
Young people regret having left school early because
they see their lack of qualifications as a barrier to
employment or further education/training. However,
they generally see 'no way back' to second-level
education to improve their prospects.
No Way Back? The Dynamics of Early School Leaving
The Post-Primary Longitudinal Study has indicated the importance of informal advice,
especially from parents, in decision making within second-level education (Smyth et al.,
2007; Byrne and Smyth, forthcoming) McCoy et al. (2006), using School Leavers’ Survey
data, similarly report that young people who leave school prior to Junior Certificate level
are particularly unlikely to receive advice from school personnel, and much more likely
to receive (and rely on) advice from informal sources, such as their parents, other family
members or their friends. The data indicate that formal guidance from a guidance
counsellor or teacher rises steadily according to the level of educational attainment.
Furthermore, regardless of educational attainment, young males are more reliant on the
advice of their parents while females are more likely to consider within-school advice,
particularly from career guidance teachers. It was clear from the interviews with the
early school leavers that communication with parents was an important aspect of the
school-leaving decision. Practically all of the school leavers we spoke to had discussed
the decision with their parents to some degree.
They find that 40 per cent of Junior Certificate school leavers report receiving advice from their Guidance Counsellor,
rising to 50 per cent among those leaving during senior cycle and 82 per cent among Leaving Certificate holders.
In the context of limited resources, guidance provision is generally targeted at
senior cycle students, with those who leave school early having little contact
with the guidance counsellor (McCoy et al.,2006). It is evident that access to
high quality career guidance is important for all young people.
Such guidance should seek to ensure that young people and their families
are aware of the short-term and the long-term implications of leaving
school early.
Guidance services in schools also have a potential role to
play in providing support and referral for those young people who
have experienced bereavement and other life trauma. Without such
support, these young people may be unable to continue on in full-time
Variables Affecting the Early school Leaver
Prioritisation Checklist
Small Discussion Groups
Strategies under 16years :Left school before 16 or
completing 3 years post primary
12 -15 age period characterised by change
physiological, social , psychological and
emotional with the onset of puberty.
School completion
Youth Work Provision
Home school Liaison
Alternative Education Programmes
Relationship with peers assumes a greater
significance and importance in a young
persons development.
Personal and behavioural boundaries are
continually challenged as the young person
begin to assert their independence.
Strategies Over 16: Left school before completing the leaving
Young people in the 15 + age groups are quickly
changing as they approach adulthood.
They need and ask for more independence as well
as privacy.
They have a heightened awareness of body image
and are concerned about appearances and social
BTEA (excl Momentum)
They are able to and enjoy exploring abstract or
complex issues.
CEB youth Entrepreneurship Training and Mentoring supports
CEB/MFI micro-loans for young people
International Work Experience and Training
Community Employment
Vocational Third Level
Youth Work
"a planned programme of education designed for the
purpose of aiding and enhancing the personal and
social development of young persons through their
voluntary participation, and which is
complementary to their formal, academic or
vocational education and training; and provided
primarily by voluntary youth work organisations."
(Youth Work Act, 2001)
Youth Work Option
Supportive to school
Cost Effective
Existing structures (ETB Youth Officers)
Existing Youth Organisations (Foroige, Youth
Work Ireland Etc)
Professional trained staff
Continues after school and during holidays
Contribution to group
Checking and Following Instructions
A place is maintained through a fortnightly
individual interview /scoring/ presentation

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