Educational Welfare Services which are part of the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) deal with children and families who have difficulties in relation to school attendance, participation, retention. It operates under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. The TESS statutory and school support services of the Child and Family Agency work collaboratively with schools and other relevant services to secure better educational outcomes for children and young people.
Aims and objectives of EWS
The aims and objectives of this statutory service are to ensure that every child either attends school regularly or otherwise receives a minimum education; to ensure and secure every child’s entitlement to education. Educational Welfare Officers work with families and children in a child-centred way to overcome barriers to their school attendance, participation and retention; and work closely with schools, educational support services and other agencies to support school attendance and resolve attendance problems for the benefit of children and families.
Who do we work with?
The Educational Welfare Service works with children, young people and their families who are experiencing difficulty with school attendance; this is done through, home visits, educational welfare conferences and collaboratively working with different agencies. The main priority of the work is around the welfare of children and young people and to ensure that concerns around attendance are addressed before attendance becomes a crisis issue.
Responsibility of parents
When a student is absent from school it is the parents responsibility to inform the school, in writing, of the reason for the absence. If a parent fails in his or her duty to ensure that their child attends school then the Educational Welfare Officer has the power to take legal action against the parent under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. The Education Welfare Act covers all children between 6 to 16 years of age. This is the compulsory school-going age. The statutory service is a national service covering all 4,000 schools both DEIS and non-DEIS, and both primary and Post-Primary.
Listening to what young people have to say
The most sustainable outcomes in educational welfare work are achieved when the views of the young person have been listened to and acted upon. As part of the assessment process and formulation of a plan Educational Welfare Officers are encouraged to involve the child and listen to the voice of the child.
During an evaluation in 2009, children expressed the following views in relation to working with an Educational Welfare Officer-:
(National Educational Welfare Board: Reducing the Barriers to School Attendance: Testing a new way of working. Richards (2009) pp. 21, 29 and 30).