Many young people ‘falling through cracks of education’

Many young people ‘falling through cracks of education’
Darragh Cotter from Mayfield, after receiving his Leaving Cert results at The Life Centre, Cork. Picture: David Keane.

Young people are falling through the cracks in the education system, the director of a Cork-based educational project has warned.

Cork Life Centre, a volunteer project providing alternative education for early school leavers, has been forced to reject more than 130 applications for the upcoming school year as it reached capacity last October.

The Irish Examiner previously reported on the successes of one of its students, Darragh Cotter, who received his Leaving Cert results last week. The centre, which takes in 55 students, and teaches a range of subjects, has seen a surge in the number of young people applying, said director Don O’Leary.

“The State deems 10% of young people in the education system as early school leavers,” he said. “I would argue that figure is much higher but, if you take it at 10%, the last census said there are roughly 900,000 children in school and 10% of 900,000 is a huge figure.”

“I’m not happy to say that as a developed country we place 10% of our students on the scrapheap.”

“The minimum qualification to get work really is the Leaving Cert. If we’re letting 10% leave the system, what kind of quality of life will they have? It is a big problem, and I feel like the State is underplaying it.

Not everyone will know where we are and we have been full since last October. What will happen the kids who don’t know about us? Where are they going to go?

There needs to be more support in place to help those at risk of leaving school, and the education system needs an overhaul, said Mr O’Leary.

“I don’t like the term early school leavers,” he said. “There are many reasons why kids are out of school, and the term puts the blame on them.

“When it comes to education, one size does not fit all, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful towards schools. If a school has 600 students, it’s very hard to see the kids that are disappearing into the background.”

Child and adolescent mental health services need to be improved, and further supports should be in place around transitioning through the education system, he added.

“Transitions for kids are hugely difficult, and they can get lost around these times,” he said. “Even from Junior Cert to Leaving Cert, we see kids get lost. There is a belief that early school leavers come from disadvantaged areas — that’s not true.

“I have young people coming in from every corner of Cork city and county. It can happen to any child, who might experience bullying, mental health issues, health issues or addiction.”

The Cork Life Centre, based in Sunday’s Well, is recruiting and accepting volunteers for the incoming year, Mr O’Leary added.

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