Education welfare in Ireland: a study of the experiences of young people and families referred to the Statutory Education Welfare Service

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Date
2020-11-30
Authors
O'Flynn, Sinéad
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University College Cork
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Abstract
This research examines the experiences of young people and families referred to the Educational Welfare Service in Ireland. This is a small-scale unique study based on seven case studies and includes in-depth semi-structured interviews with young people, parents, schools, external agencies and the Education Welfare Officers (EWOs). This qualitative study explores the factors contributing to poor school attendance from the perspectives of the young people and their parents, the research explores their response to these contributing factors and considers their engagement with the school and subsequent engagement with the Education Welfare Service (EWS). A number of central themes emerge from the data as contributing to school absenteeism, these include; educational inequality, mental health issues including bereavement, anxiety and trauma and the impact of having a special educational need. The research highlights the effects of inequality and the lack of appropriate services for young people both in and outside of the school environment. The importance of a positive school climate and the importance of true and meaningful school inclusion also emerge from the research as being fundamental in ensuring continued engagement for marginalised young people within the education system. The research recommends the review of the current school attendance legislation, the review of practice methods used by schools and agencies to maintain young people within the education system and a targetted, holistic approach to effectively respond to the complex issues that lead to early school leaving. Consideration should be given to using a multidisciplinary approach with the potential to offer a range of services to support young people with their learning, with their emotional and mental health issues and include the provision of outreach options to marginalised families. The research also explores the role of the Education Welfare Officer and focuses on the influence of power and social class on school attendance. This research explores the appropriateness of prosecution as a response to poor school attendance, given the complexity of the underlying issues that are illustrated by the cases presented. The role of the Education Welfare Officer is presented as the advocate for children and young people through the support and guidance offered to parents, schools and agencies.
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Keywords
School absenteeism , Educational inequality , Education Welfare , School refusal
Citation
O'Flynn, S. M. 2020. Education welfare in Ireland: a study of the experiences of young people and families referred to the Statutory Education Welfare Service. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.