Monday, April 30, 2012

Department enrolment circular & policy support needed immediately while legislation is prepared

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Vice-Chair of Jobs, Social Protection & Education Committee
Labour Party TD, Dublin North Central
Monday, 30th April 2012

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today called on the Department of Education to immediately issue a circular with guidelines and policy frameworks to all schools in relation to the educational needs of pregnant students.

The Dublin North Central Deputy was speaking after it emerged that a secondary school in Munster refused entry to a prospective pupil on the grounds she was pregnant.

“The Department of Education needs to support teenage parents and their schools in these situations. Last month, the Jobs, Social Protection and Education Committee, of which I am Vice-Chair, undertook a visit to the Lorien Project Tallaght where we were briefed on the remarkable work being done by Barnardos in helping teen parents.

“Barnardo's Teenage Parents Support Programme is leading the way in intervening at a point in life where dropping out of education and long term dependency on income support payments are very likely. The programme provides a response to the needs of the parents, fathers as well as mothers, including encouragement and support to remain in or return to education with a view to pursing career options.

“Schools need guidance and policies in place to be able to deal effectively with such cases. It needs to be stated categorically that most students are dealt with compassion by teachers and school authorities. Twenty years ago a member of my family was refused re-entry to school as a result of a pregnancy. Ireland has changed, but schools need direction from the department to help them deal effectively and sympathetically with teenage pregnancy.

“The Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has been assured that legislative action is pending in relation to the area of enrolment policies as she outlines in her report.

“Students need compassion, not condemnation. The Department must take the lead in this regard as we await the important legislation.”