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More Traveller pupils in second level

Resource type: News

Irish Examiner |

by Niall Murray THE numbers of Traveller children making it to second-level education has more than doubled in six years but the vast majority still never make it to the Leaving Certificate. Figures revealed by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe show that 2,317 students from the Traveller community were enrolled at second level in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available – up from 1,165 in 2000. There were 7,771 Traveller children in the country’s primary schools two years ago, twice the number 20 years ago, with support from more than 500 resource teachers and other back-up services. However, the numbers that go on to sit the Leaving Certificate arc still relatively small, rising from just 63 in 2005 to 82 last year. Figures for September 2006 show that while there were 709 Traveller, students in first year, only 115 were beginning sixth year. “Clearly, we have made huge progress in helping Travellers to access education and the figures bear that out,” said Mr O’Keeffe. The minister said that the progress is largely attributable to his department’s strategy document on Traveller education and the setting up of the Traveller Implementation Group to co-ordinate education policies based on integration, inclusion and age-appropriate placement. “But while progress has been made, challenges remain, the most pressing of which are absenteeism and retention rates among Traveller students,” he said. Outside of mainstream second level education, growing numbers of Travellers are taking part in a range of alternative centres, with 267 of them aged under 18 enrolled in Youthreach programmes in September 2006. More than 190 people were enrolled in Senior Traveller Training Centres in the same year, while 86 were signed up for FAS Community Training Workshops. “There has been a modest, but important, uptake among Travellers in third-level education which has been partly helped by our success at primary and post-primary levels and with the support of third-level access programmes in our universities and colleges,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

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