Record Demand for School Places But There's No National Roll Call - Hayes

Fine Gael

FG propose setting up primary school pupil database

Fine Gael Education Spokesman, Brian Hayes TD, has today (Friday) proposed setting up a central database for all primary school children that would be identical to the one used in second level and enable the Department of Education to monitor the progress of children through school, track attendance levels and plan for future enrolment needs.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) predict that if immigration trends continue, there will be a demand for 10,000 additional primary school places each year over the next 4-5 years, but the Department is still operating in an archaic fashion with no centralised method of tracking pupils in the system.

"It is frankly not good enough that, in 2008, the Department of Education has no means of monitoring children's progress through primary school and cannot even provide the most basic information about class size until the end of each school year.

"As it stands primary schools are still tracking attendance with old-fashioned roll books with this information only stored locally in each school.

"The National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) monitors attendance levels independently and they estimate that there is a major problem with 47,000 primary school pupils missing more than 20 days a year. Every primary school student misses on average of 10 days in the school year. However, in the most disadvantaged urban areas, the average absence is 17 days per student. The NEWB is under-resourced and under-funded so a centralised database would assist them in tackling truancy.

"Fine Gael wants to see a centralised primary pupil database established immediately that would track each and every child in primary school. A similar system has been in existence at second level for a number of years and with improvements in IT, this should be quite easy to put in place at primary level.

"The benefits of such a database would be wide-ranging and include:

  • Track attendance nationwide, thereby easing pressure on the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) and dealing with truancy more effectively
  • The database could be developed as a useful resource to monitor issues affecting health and social and family affairs - speech and language services, poverty issues, special needs etc.
  • Allow for identification of areas where services and/or funding should be targeted for students who need it most
  • Track the movement of children between schools
  • Identify planning needs and building priorities for the Department
  • Help to address the problem of early school leaving amongst Traveller children and other categories of students most at risk."

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