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Wednesday 24 January 2018

Nice idea, Minister -- sadly, it won't work

WITH the best will in the world, Ruairi Quinn says it might be a good idea to monitor children who miss school for less than 20 days a year.

The minister is rightly concerned that some children are missing school for the wrong reasons, including parents taking advantage of cheap holidays during term time.

However, the educational welfare service is operating with 72 staff, far fewer than was envisaged when new school-attendance rules -- including the 20-day threshold -- was introduced some years ago.

Educational welfare officers (EWOs) are stretched and have to prioritise the most pressing cases -- usually children missing for 50 days or more, never mind 20.

Take the case of Co Meath, where one EWO is working in a county with 23,757 pupils.

If absenteeism in Meath is in line with national norms, then about 3,000 pupils are missing 20 days a year or more. It's a big ask for an EWO to chase up all of those.

The reality is that the current system can't even deal with the kids who are missing 20 days -- let alone those absent for 19 or less.

Irish Independent

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