Education | Update on the efforts to provide afterschool services for full-time employed parents
To ask the Minister for Education the ongoing efforts, if any, to provide afterschool services given the necessity for both parents to remain in employment due to high mortgages; if it is anticipated that this issue is being provided for in a meaningful way; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
My Department provides a number of policies and programmes which are supportive of afterschool clubs or activities for students at risk of educational disadvantage.
DEIS – Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools is a key policy initiative of the Department of Education to address educational disadvantage at school level. In the 2022/23 academic year there are over 1,200 schools in the DEIS Programme serving over 240,000 pupils.
All DEIS schools receive a DEIS grant which is to be used to support the implementation of the schools’ DEIS Action Plan for Improvement. This Plan sets targets under key themes, such as attendance, retention, progression, literacy and numeracy, partnership, transition, wellbeing and examination attainment (post-primary only). A key focus of these themes is that they are targeted at those students most at risk of educational disadvantage. It is a matter for the school Board of Management to allocate DEIS grant funding so that it targets those students deemed most in need; this can include afterschool activities.
The School Completion Programme (SCP) is available to DEIS post-primary and urban primary schools. SCP supports students in relation to school attendance, participation and retention. These interventions and supports may include afterschool clubs, which are allowable under the SCP funding. In March 2021, I announced a 5% increase in funding for the School Completion Programme to support the attendance and participation of vulnerable learners and those at risk of education disadvantage; a further 5% increase was provided under Budget 2023.
My Department first published Guidelines on the use of School Buildings outside of School Hours in October 2017. The purpose of these guidelines was to provide guidance to schools in relation to their current arrangements for the use of school buildings outside of school hours. The Guidelines outline the various scenarios and informs where consent of the Department of Education is required.
The publication of the Guidelines followed a Programme for Government commitment, for the utilisation of primary school buildings for after-school care provision for school age children to offer more options and flexibility to parents, where there is demand for such a service, in partnership with community groups or private providers.
My Department is currently reviewing the guidelines. The review will include consultation with the relevant stakeholders, including representatives of schools and other government departments which engage with the community and voluntary sectors. As part of the Review my Department is conducting a survey of a sample of schools regarding their experience in engaging with community and recreational groups seeking to use school property.
The type of information being sought in the survey includes the current use of schools outside of school hours, the types of activities being catered for, and future use.
The feedback received from the discussions with the relevant stakeholders along with the results of the survey will be used to inform the review of the guidelines by my Department. Following the review, and in consultation with school authorities, the guidelines will be updated as necessary and all schools will be notified of the changes.
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