Grants for inspired ways of keeping over-16s in school;Briefing;International

2nd July 1999 at 01:00

Further measures to raise school retention rates are planned by the Irish education minister Michael Martin.

He has already announced plans to raise the school leaving age from 15 to 16 and proposes to compel employers to allow 17 and 18-year-olds time off work to study part time.

Now additional grants are being made available to secondary schools to implement their own ideas. The money can be used for such things as additional teaching hours for potential drop-uts, homework clubs, sport and leisure clubs, systematic tracking of absences and better homeschool liaison.

The latest initiative reflects growing concern that the Government's target of of keeping 90 per cent of pupils at school until the end of the secondary school leaving certificate is becoming more difficult to achieve.

The booming economy is encouraging more students to take up part-time jobs. Some city schools report that four of out five of their students are working part time.

The temptation for students is to switch to full-time working and drop out of school altogether.

At present the national retention rate is around 83 per cent, but it varies widely.

New figures show that 67 out of the country's 759 secondary schools have retention rates of below 50 per cent while a further 50 schools have rates of only 51-60 per cent and 86 have between 61-70 per cent.

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