Education (Welfare) Act, 2000
“An Act to provide for the entitlement of every child in the State to a certain minimum education, and, for that purpose, to provide for the registration of children receiving education in places other than recognised schools, the compulsory attendance of certain children at recognised schools, the establishment of a body, to be known as the National Educational Welfare Board or, in the Irish language, An Bord naísiúnta Leasa Oideachais, the coordination of its activities and those of certain other persons in so far as they relate to matters connected with school attendance, the identification of the causes of non-attendance on the part of certain students and the adoption of measures for its prevention, to repeal the School Attendance Acts, 1926 to 1967, to permit the supply of data relating to a person’s educational history to certain persons, to provide for the amendment of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996, and to provide for matters connected therewith. [5th July, 2000]”
This Act repealed the 1926 legislation on school attendance and radically altered the approach, from one based on penalties to one focussed on identifying children and young people who have, or who in the future may have, school attendance difficulties and addressing their needs both in their schools and their communities. The Act also provides for the first time for the identification of children who are being educated outside the recognised school system and for a structure to ensure that the education, which is being provided to them, meets their constitutional rights to education. The Act establishes the National Educational Welfare Board, which through a network of Educational Welfare Officers with responsibilities for specific schools, will implement the provisions of the Act.
The primary function of the Board, launched in 2003, is to ensure that each child in the State attends a recognised school or otherwise receives an appropriate education. In particular, the Board has a key role to follow up on children who are not attending school regularly and where there is a concern for their educational welfare. The Board also acts as an advocate or support for the child, parent or guardian if there is a difficulty in school attendance or educational welfare. The Board has also developed a specific website, www.schoolreturn.ie, to enable schools to meet their legal requirement to report student absences to the Board. See www.newb.ie for further information on work of the Board.