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«The Invisible Students Young Parents in Education By Sinéad Riordan, The Centre for Social and Educational Research, Dublin Institute of Technology ...»

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The Invisible Students

Young Parents in Education

By Sinéad Riordan,

The Centre for Social and Educational Research, Dublin Institute of Technology

Commissioned by the Teen Parents Support Initiative

October 2002

2

Table of contents

Forward 5

Acknowledgements 6

Executive summary 8 Section 1 Setting the scene 10

1. Introduction 11

1.1. Rationale for paper 12 Section 2 Young parents and educational disadvantage 14

2. Introduction 15

2.1 Young parents and educational disadvantage 15

Section 3 Literature review: key issues arising:

young parents participation in education 19

3. Introduction 20

3.1. Literature review: key issues arising 20

3.2. Factors influencing young parents decisions to participate in education and training 21 3.2.1. Family, social and cultural factors 21 3.2.2. Structural and institutional factors 22

3.3. Promoting equality of opportunity for minorities 22 Section 4 Policy context 25

4. Introduction 26

4.1. Policy context 26

4.2. Policy gaps and issues 29

4.3. Key factors contributing to policy gaps 30 4.3.1. The absence of a clear definition for a ‘teenage parent’ in social policy 30 4.3.2. Data deficiencies 31 4.3.3. Inadequate definitions of ‘at risk’ 32 4.3.4. Lack of guidelines for educational and training organisations 32 4.3.5. Political context 32 Sec

–  –  –

Foreword As Minister for Children, I am pleased to publish this paper on young parents and education disadvantage, which has been commissioned as part of the evaluation of the Teenage Parents Support Initiative (TPSI). The aim of this paper is to identify and discuss key aspects of the policy landscape in relation to young parents’ participation in education and to inform the work of the TPSI pilot projects.

For all young people, education and training offers a possible route out of poverty, social exclusion and isolation. Research suggests that teenage parents represent a particularly vulnerable group within the education system and that difficulties in continuing formal education and in accessing relevant training opportunities are significant issues for young parents and their children.

A central policy issue identified through the work of the projects is the importance of supporting young parents to reconcile pregnancy and parenthood and their own continued participation in education and training. The TPSI pilot projects made a key element of their work the support of young parents who wished to participate in education and training. It is hoped that this paper will contribute to the ongoing development of necessary services and supports for young parents in the field of education and training.

6 Acknowledgements The Centre for Social and Educational Research The Centre for Social and Educational Research, an independent research and policy analysis body, was established in 1997 and is located within the Dublin Institute of Technology.

In 2001, a dedicated Families Research Unit was established. This development was a consequence of the increasing number of research and evaluation studies undertaken by the Centre in the broad field of families research and of the need to consolidate and advance the families research agenda. The work of this Research Unit is informed by, and informs, the research carried out in two other units – the Residential Child Care and Juvenile Justice Research Unit and the Early Childhood Care and Education Research Unit. This is an important aspect of the research carried out, given the cross-cutting nature of various policies targeted at families and children.

We would like to thank Dora Hennessy and especially Mary Hargaden, Mary Murphy and Mary Deacy, Childcare Policy Unit, Department of Health and Children.

The ongoing support of colleagues at the Dublin Institute of Technology for the work of the Centre is gratefully acknowledged – in the School of Social Sciences and Legal Studies, especially Noirin Hayes, Executive Director of the Centre; in the Faculty of Applied Arts, especially Dr. Ellen, Hazelkorn, Director; and in the Directorate of External Affairs, especially Dr. Declan Glynn, Director;

Dr. Steve Jerrams, Head of Research Centres, and Dr. John Donovan, Head of Industry and Innovation Services for the Faculty of Applied Arts.

We would also like to acknowledge the interest in and support of the research undertaken in the Families Research Unit provided by members of the Centre’s Advisory Board: Brendan O’Reilly, Jackie Harrison, Owen Keenan, Dr. John Pinkerton, Michael Donnellan, Dr. Kevin Lalor and Dr.

Fergus Ryan.

Dr. Lorna Ryan, Manager 7

Researcher This discussion paper was commissioned by the Department of Health and Children as part of the evaluation of the Teen Parents Support Initiative. The author would like to acknowledge the invaluable help and advice provided by the project staff of the Teen Parents Support Initiative pilot projects and the co-ordinator of the Resource Pack and Directory of Services for Key Workers with Young Parents. These include the following: Margaret Acton, Phyllis Crowe, Aileen Davies, Liz Dunworth, Dave Ellis, Martina Hogan, Mairead Kelly, Niamh Murphy, Elaine Murray, Mary O’Neill and Imelda Ryan, and the staff of Treoir particularly, Margot Doherty.





The research was supported by an Evaluation Steering Group comprising: Francis Chance, Barnardos; Rosemary Grant, The Coombe Women’s Hospital; Mary Hargaden, Department of Health and Children; Dora Hennessy, Department of Health and Children; Maire O’Leary, Western Health Board; Susan McNaughton, Mid Western Health Board; and Chris Sheridan, Mid Western Health Board.

The author gratefully acknowledges the expert advice and support provided by this Group.

Administrative support to the Group was provided by the Child Care Policy Unit, Department of Health and Children particularly, Mary Murphy and Mary Deacy.

Special thanks and acknowledgements to the staff of the Centre for Social and Educational Research (CSER), DIT, especially Dr. Lorna Ryan, Research Manager for her contributions and comments on the development of this paper and Lorna Gannon, the CSER Administrator.

The greatest acknowledgement must, however, go to the young parents who agreed to participate in the evaluation. Without their valuable views and participation, the discussion presented in this paper would be sadly lacking.

Sinéad Riordan, Researcher.

8 Executive summary This paper was commissioned as part of the external evaluation of the Teen Parents Support Initiative (TPSI) funded by the Department of Health and Children. The Initiative consists of three pilot project sites working directly to support young parents and a fourth element, namely the development of a resource pack and directory of services for key workers with young parents (see Box One for further details on the initative). The purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss key aspects of the policy landscape in relation to young parents’ participation in education and to inform the work of the TPSI pilot projects.

A central policy issue identified through the work of the projects is the importance of supporting young parents to reconcile pregnancy and parenthood and their own continued participation in education or training. Research suggests that lower levels of educational attainment are strongly associated with a higher probability of teen parenthood as well as poorer long-term life outcomes (Kiernan, 1995; Social Exclusion Unit, 1999). In response to this, TPSI pilot projects made a key element of their work the support of young parents’ who wished to participate in education and training.

Key issues arising A number of obstacles limiting young parents’ opportunities to participate in education and training

are clearly identifiable. These include:

• Family, social and cultural obstacles including a lack of parental or familial support, social constructions of good mothering, cultural values, feelings of stigmatisation and exclusion; and

• Structural and institutional obstacles including exclusion from mainstream schooling, negative school experiences, childcare affordability and availability, financial needs (including secondary benefits), barriers to accessing existing alternative education and training opportunities (such as age criteria) and lack of external counselling and support programmes.

–  –  –

Recommendations

The following policy recommendations are made:

• The naming of young parents as a specific target group under social inclusion and education measures and the appraisal of policies for their impact on young parents;

• The creation of a body of data on young parents in order to combat their present ‘invisibility’ within official statistics. In particular, a greater focus in official statistics on young fathers and non-nationals is required;

• The development of ‘joined up’ policy on education and training for young parents and the potential central role of partnership working arrangements and locally based integrated networks to develop strategic approaches to the education support needs of young parents;

• The development of guidelines or policies by each individual school on teenage pregnancy and parenthood which should cover support on disclosure of pregnancy, support during the pregnancy and delivery, supports for young fathers and support and training needs of teachers;

and

• Further research on the schooling experiences of pregnant and parenting teenagers.

The paper calls for a shift towards ‘differentiated policy’ (Davies et al, 1996) that is, policy which acknowledges and responds to the full range of circumstances among young parents and their diversity of support needs. The adoption of such an approach would result in a more holistic response to the full range of circumstances and needs of young parents. Teenage parents have a complex set of needs that require a response through a comprehensive support system involving all relevant agencies.

The paper suggests that TPSI pilot projects have played a central role in developing responses to the educational support needs of young parents. TPSI projects recognised and worked to support and resolve any issues arising from personal, familial or structural factors that may have influenced young parents’ ability and desire to participate in education and training. By supporting all aspects of a young parent’s life, the Initiative sought to overcome the numerous ‘small’ obstacles that can reduce even the most committed young person’s ability to participate in education/training. In conclusion, the paper suggests that the Initiative is well placed to play a important role in the development of local and regional integrated networks to meet the education and training needs of young parents.

Section one

–  –  –

parents (Working Group on Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood, 2000:45).

1. Introduction This paper was commissioned as part of the external evaluation of a national pilot programme, the Teen Parents Support Initiative (TPSI), funded by the Department of Health and Children. The Initiative consists of three pilot projects working directly with young parents and pregnant teenagers aged 19 years and under, and a fourth element, namely the production of a resource pack and directory of services for use by key workers with young parents. Box One provides further information on the Initiative.

Box 1. Overview of the Teen Parents Support Initiative (TPSI) There are four core elements to the Teen Parents Support Initiative, 3 pilot project sites and the development of a Resource Pack and Directory for key workers with young parents.

• The Dublin project is based within a voluntary organisation, Barnardos and covers the areas of Dublin 8, Drimnagh, Crumlin and Tallaght;

• The Limerick project is based within a community organisation, Limerick Social Services Centre and covers Limerick City and County;

• The Galway project is based within a statutory body, the Western Health Board, and covers Galway City and County; and

• Treoir (National Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children) is producing a Resource Pack and Directory for Key Workers with Young Parents.

In recent years, new developments in education in Ireland have evolved against the backdrop of social inclusion policies in the European Union and the development of social partnership in national economic planning. Education is viewed as key to building and maintaining economic growth and activity in Ireland. For all young people, education and training offers a possible route out of poverty, social exclusion and/or isolation. Research suggests that teenage parents represent a particularly vulnerable group within the educational system and that difficulties in continuing formal education and in accessing relevant training opportunities are a significant issue for young parents and their children (McCashin, 1997; Joint Committee on Family, Community and Social Affairs, 2001; NESF, 2001).

A central policy issue identified by TPSI project workers through their work with young parents is the difficulties faced by teens in reconciling pregnancy and parenthood and continued education or training. Consultation with project workers and young parents participating in TPSI suggests that the educational needs of some young parents are not being ‘best met’ through existing training and education pathways. This paper has been prepared, therefore, in an attempt to highlight an issue that requires more attention. The paper does not intend to provide an in-depth examination of the different types of education (that is, second level, alternative training and education 12 Research suggests that teenage parents represent a particularly vulnerable group within the educational system and that difficulties in continuing formal education and in accessing relevant training opportunities are a significant issue for young parents and their children (McCashin, 1997; Joint Committee on Family, Community and Social Affairs, 2001; NESF, 2001).



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