Dáil Éireann - Volume 568 - 10 June, 2003

Written Answers. - Third Level Access.

  307. Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will make contact with all the second level schools in Tallaght and Dublin south west generally to ensure that as many students as possible avail of third level education; the position in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15184/03]

  Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): The student support unit of my Department issues, annually, a copy of the information booklet Financial Support for Further & Higher Education to the guidance counsellors in all second level schools. Information on all aspects of financial support is also available on my Department's website.

  My Department also understands that staff from County Dublin Vocational Education Committee hold information days with sixth year students in the second level schools under its remit, including those in Tallaght and the Dublin south-west area. The purpose of these information sessions is to make students aware of the assistance that is available to them, for further or higher education, and the process involved in applying for grants under my Department's student support schemes.

  I was pleased to announce on 25 May, 2003 a new package of measures costing €42 million in a full year to further address and ameliorate the problems facing students from low to moderate income households in accessing third-level education.

  This package combines substantial improvements in the level and coverage of the maintenance grant for those on low to moderate incomes, with increases in the level of top-up grant for those who are most disadvantaged.

  In addition to the above named measures specifically designed to broaden access to third level education, I have also allocated more than €133 million on measures at pre-school, primary and post primary level which provide additional financial and teaching resources for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, thereby encouraging their continued participation in formal schooling and increasing their chances of progressing to third level education. This includes provision in the following areas: €7 million for pre-school programmes such as the Early Start pilot project [270] which caters for pupils aged three to four years who are most at risk in areas of social disadvantage; over €70 million for disadvantaged programmes at primary level such as the disadvantaged areas scheme, home school liaison scheme, and the Giving Children an Even Break programme; €33 million for post primary level disadvantaged schemes such as the disadvantaged areas scheme and home school community liaison scheme; and €23 million for the school completion programme in 2003 which encompasses primary and post primary level and is a key component of my Department's strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving.

  In 2002, my Department introduced the school completion programme or SCP, which is a new and significantly expanded programme to deal with early school leaving incorporating the learning, experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives and assimilates the eight to 15 early school leaver initiative, or ESLI, and stay-in-school retention initiative at second level or SSRI.

  The objective of the school completion programme is to provide a range of interventions in areas of disadvantage that support the retention of young people in education. Evidence generated from the pilot phases of the school completion programme shows that the most effective way of addressing educational disadvantage is through an integrated approach involving primary and post primary schools, parents, communities and relevant statutory and voluntary agencies.

  The 82 school completion project sites were selected to participate in the school completion programme in 2002. There are six SCP clusters operational in Tallaght: Brookfield/Fettercairn, Old Bawn, east Tallaght/Balrothery, Dublin 24/St. Mark's, Killinarden, and Jobstown.

  My Department also grant-aids two third level access projects which serve second level schools in the Tallaght area: the Trinity access project and the Tallaght access programme or ACE. There is one access project in the Clondalkin, Dublin west area, the Clondalkin higher education access project.

  These projects have enjoyed considerable success in improving access for pupils from those disadvantaged areas to third level.