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Traveller children 'would not attend mainstream school'

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Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General of the Department of Education

Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General of the Department of Education

Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General of the Department of Education

Traveller parents have little interest in sending their children to secondary school, according to a memo given to a Dáil committee by a senior civil servant.

The secretary general of the Department of Education, Seán Ó Foghlú, said this conclusion was reached by a vocational schools body following discussions with parents in a mid-west town.

The Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) found the attitudes of Travellers in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, towards second-level education differed greatly from those in the settled community.

It found the parents of Traveller boys in the town had little interest in sending them to secondary school once they had made their Confirmation.

Instead, they were very keen for them to go into apprenticeships with their fathers and learn a trade.

According to the education and training board, the parents also indicated that from the age of 12 or 13 a Traveller girl "will be preparing for her future, which is marriage".

It said: "If the girl is in school she is seen by a potential future husband as a child and this will put her at a disadvantage to other girls within the Traveller community. She will be perceived as being 'too educated' by her community."

The memo was passed by Mr Ó Foghlú to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee after it asked the department to examine concerns raised about Traveller education arrangements at a school in the town, Coláiste na Trócaire.

The school was at the centre of controversy two years ago after it emerged during a court case that Traveller children were being taught in a separate classroom.

A lawyer acting for the school denied it was segregating Travellers from other school-goers.

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The education and training board defended arrangements at the school, which operates an outreach programme attended by Traveller children in a community education centre away from the main campus.

"The reality is that the students would not attend the mainstream school, so LCETB was faced with the prospect of no engagement and therefore poor educational outcomes for students," it said.

The memo said students attending the centre abide by the school's code of behaviour. Child protection and campus security measures are being implemented at the centre, it said.

The Junior Cert Schools Programme, which is targeted at students identified as being at risk of leaving school early, is being taught at the centre.

The education and training board said participation and progressions levels had improved since the outreach programme was set up in 2012.

The first set of Traveller students will complete the Junior Cert programme next June.

The Traveller support group Pavee Point said that while it understood the need for such measures "in exceptional circumstances", it had to be viewed as an interim solution.

The group said it favoured the integration of all Traveller students into mainstream education.


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