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Schools forced to expel 16,000 problem students

ALMOST 16,000 students are being suspended from secondary schools every year.

This amounts to more than one in 20 students being told to leave school due to indiscipline, with the average jumping to one in 10 among pupils in disadvantaged schools.

A report by Dr David Millar from the Education Research Centre in St Patrick's College has also found that 12pc of primary school pupils are absent for more than 20 days a year, while 17pc of post-primary students miss this many.

The overall rate of suspensions across the country is rising steadily, up from 4.9pc in 2004/05 to 5.3pc in 2007/08.

The report found the highest rates of all for non-attendance, expulsions and suspensions in disadvantaged schools in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools scheme.

The research, compiled for the National Education Welfare Board, warns that high rates of absenteeism can be directly related to lower performances in the Junior Cert exam, early school-leaving and higher rates of poverty.

However, it said there was no quick fix for educational disadvantage and stressed that deep and sustained interventions are needed.

A separate report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science suggested the educational system needed a better system to follow the educational and training pathways of all young people.

It also advised an end to "streaming" students along separate academic lines with "weaker" pupils grouped together, as well as new assessment procedures to replace the "one size fits all" approach to exams.

However, the report's authors have said more mental and emotional health support for students is needed to help prevent early school-leaving.

Last year, the Department of Education extended the remit of the National Education Welfare Board. It now emphasises an integrated child and family-centred education support service. This draws on the skills, expertise and knowledge of four services -- home-school-community liaison, a school completion programme, a visiting teacher service for Travellers and the educational welfare service.

"By combining the skills and strengths of staff from the four services, along with those of teachers and other school-based personnel, the new integrated approach will help children who struggle to attend school to learn better and stay in school for longer," the board said.

"Work has commenced on developing the new arrangements. An integrated management team has been established and is working effectively at national level."