THE number of children receiving home tuition grants has increased, but only a fraction of the hundreds of schoolgirls who become pregnant are availing of the payments, with only 70 teenage girls receiving the grant last year.
The statistics, provided by the Department of Education, also show that more than 1,000 autistic children of preschool age and with no school have received home tuition grants in the past two years.
In addition, the number of children at primary and post-primary levels that have no school place or are unable to attend because of a serious medical condition has also increased in the past two years.
In all, 1,047 Home Tuition Grants were provided for special education reasons in 2007/’08, an increase of 123 compared with the previous school year.
The number of post-primary home tuition grants allocated because of teen pregnancy, short-term lack of school place due to expulsion or because they have been referred by the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), also increased last year, with 554 payments made compared with 431 the previous year.
The number of home tuition payments made to pregnant schoolgirls has remained consistent, with 70 payments made last year and 69 in 2007.
That figure is just a fraction of the number of schoolgirls who become pregnant. For example, in its vital statistics for the second quarter of 2008, the Central Statistics Office revealed that there were 141 schoolgirls aged 17 or younger who became mothers in that period, and a further 199 18-year-olds who became mothers. Other figures from the Teen Parents Support Programme show that in 2007 213 girls aged 16 or under had a baby, although that figure has fallen from a high of 278 as recently as 2000.
Anita Whelan, project leader of the Teen Parents Support Programme for Dublin North, said that many teenage mothers found it difficult to coordinate classes and therefore decided against home tuition in favour of staying in school.
However, she said that childcare supports still meant that many young mothers who wish to stay in education rely on their parents to help them with childcare.
“I think it is better to stay in school, to be with your peers and so they are not isolated,” she said.
Margot Doherty of Treoir, which coordinates the Teen Parents Support Programme nationally, said childcare was the single greatest obstacle to teenage mothers staying in school, and said a grant system to ensure they stay in school to complete secondary education would cost just e3m a year.
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