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Truancy officer system is 'not properly funded'

A HUGE number of Irish schools do not have any dedicated truancy officers because the Government has not properly funded its new monitoring system, Fine Gael's education spokesperson Olwyn Enright TD claimed last night.

The Laois/Offaly TD said thousands of children outside of Dublin, Cork and Waterford are returning to schools where there is no assistance to tackle the problem of truancy.

She explained that the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) was set up in July 2002 to address truancy and help students to stay in school. The Board needs 300 Education Welfare Officers to provide a full service under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

"Only 25 new officers have been recruited more than 12 months after the NEWB was set up, bringing the total number of officers to 62. This is 238 short of the total needed to provide a proper service throughout the country," said Ms Enright.

Most of the existing officers, she pointed out, are based in Dublin, Cork or Waterford and perform a vital role by monitoring children who regularly go missing from classes, and ensuring they receive a proper education. "But schools elsewhere have no such fallback," she said.

Before the board was set up, schools could report prolonged student absences to the Gardai, but gardai are no longer required to tackle truancy, said Ms Enright.

She said that due to Government under-funding and in spite of the NEWB's best efforts, the service will not be able to provide adequate monitoring.

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