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Donegal drop-out rate fears 09.11.07

DONEGAL saw 136 fifteen-year olds drop out of school in the last five years, new figures show.
And Deputy Joe McHugh warned that the numbers would get worse unless the Government employed more education welfare officers (EWOs) to counter the problem.
The Fine Gael T.D., said there were currently only 83 such officials employed nationally when the recommended number is 360.
Deputy Joe McHugh. “With 136 fifteen-year olds ceasing education in Donegal and the numbers dropping out nationally doubling, it is clear there is a massive problem on our hands. All the research in this area indicates that early intervention is more effective when poor school attendance patterns have been established than action taken after a student has ceased attending school.
“EWOs are employed to deal with school attendance and intervene early in crisis cases but only one-quarter of the necessary number of officers are in operation in the country," warned Deputy McHugh.
"Despite recommendations that 360 are needed nationally, the Fianna Fáil Government has only employed 83 EWOs making early intervention near impossible."
Deputy McHugh said the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) which co-ordinates the EWOs does not have the resources or capacity to respond early enough in a child’s life.
"Due to the huge volume of referrals, the quality of the response is being diluted. Outside of disadvantaged areas, the board can only respond where children are absent for 60 days or more," he added.
“This is simply not good enough and we are seeing the result of Government inaction in Donegal. The necessary education supports have not been put in place and it is the 136 early school leavers that are paying the price."
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