16,000 pupils suspended from school each year
AROUND 16,000 second-level students -- or more than one in every 20 -- are suspended from school every year because of indiscipline, shock new figures reveal.
But in disadvantaged schools, the figure for suspensions jumps dramatically to one in 10 pupils.
And the problem is getting worse, a new report due out today shows. It reveals that the rate of suspensions is rising slowly but steadily -- up from 4.9pc in 2004/05 to 5.3pc in 2007/08.
It's believed to have climbed higher since then, as schools struggle to cope with the effect of cuts and growing indiscipline.
The report, compiled by Dr David Millar from the Education Research Centre in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin, also confirms that levels of daily absenteeism and 20-day absences have remained stubbornly high over a five-year period. It shows that 12pc of primary school pupils miss more than 20 days a year and 17pc of post-primary students miss more than 20 days a year.
Rates of 20-day or more absences varied considerably in different types of schools -- from 14.1pc in traditional voluntary secondary schools, to around 23pc in vocational, community and comprehensive schools.
Rates of suspension were highest in vocational schools (7.4pc), followed by community/comprehensive schools (6.6pc) and traditional secondary schools (4.5pc).
But the highest rates of all for non-attendance, expulsions and suspensions were found in disadvantaged schools in the scheme Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), with more than a quarter of students (26.5pc) absent for more than 20 days a year and suspensions at 9.9pc.
Dr Millar said that high rates of non-attendance were associated with higher rates of poverty, early school leaving, and lower performances in the Junior Cert exam.
His report was compiled for the National Education Welfare Board which said that the problems of educational disadvantage are not amenable to any quick fix and needs deep and sustained system interventions.
Last night, Peter MacMenamin, general secretary of the Teachers' Union of Ireland, described the rate of suspension as "staggering" and said it clearly illustrated the frustration being experienced by schools.
"Inadequate staffing levels and inadequate resources to deal with disciplinary issues result in an inability to cope with the difficult student and, in order to provide for the continued teaching to the remainder of the students in the class, removal is necessary," he said.
He said that the commitment to provide resources to address disciplinary issues had not been met and had been the subject of cuts to the education system.
"Worryingly, these figures relate to only 2008, which was before the cuts began to bite. With the subsequent further cuts in resources as well as the totally unjustifiable moratorium on middle management positions in schools, these figures are very likely to soar with long-term effects on society,".
Ferdia Kelly from the school managerial body, the JMB, said schools used suspension as a last resort. But they had to have regard to the rights of other students to an education free from disruption.