«The Invisible Students Young Parents in Education By Sinéad Riordan, The Centre for Social and Educational Research, Dublin Institute of Technology ...»
• Reduces duplication or replication amongst service providers;
• Enables contact with a larger population of young parents;
• Increases the probability of matching a young parent’s ability or need with an appropriate service; and
• Enables young parents to link in with existing services within their local area for example, FÁS training schemes, which they may not previously have been aware of.
50 Case Study 1. TPSI joint working initiatives in education
In Galway, TPSI Project Workers held a number of meetings with FÁS to discuss the possibility of young parents participating in a computer course organised by FÁS. TPSI project workers facilitated young parents participation by assisting with crèche and transport facilities and advocating for the course to be held at an appropriate time for young parents. TPSI were able to support a number of the young parents in meeting childcare costs. In addition, the project workers also consulted with FÁS personnel to determine level of training allowances (if any) available for young parents. The course commenced in September 2001. Two young mothers began the course in September/October 2001 and several young parents currently have their names on a waiting list to attend.
I knew that I kind of wanted to go back to school but I wasn’t too sure about that as well – I really just wanted to go back and do some kind of a course. So when she (TPSI project worker) called around and I told her this, she said that there was this computer training course on in FAS and they’d help you with childcare and you’d get a bit of money for going there too. So this really appealed to me.... The best thing that I got out of the project was getting a place in the FAS course definitely. Its’ given me something really good to do and I hope I can do something else after this. (Young mother, aged 17 years).
6.3.2. Financial support The TPSI pilot projects have sought to address financial barriers to participation in a number of ways. Each TPSI project received funding from the Department of Education and Science through the ‘Grant Fund for Certain Children at Risk’ in 2001. Each project used this to support their work with young parents in education. Three main areas in which this funding has proved particularly
a. Assisting with financial support needs of young parents in education
• Meeting childcare expenses for young parents who wish to return or continue in education/training;
• Meet the costs of grinds; and
• Meet the costs of course tuition and equipment including books, uniforms et cetera.
Its’ really important to get the money for the childcare. Its great cos it makes me feel that I’m not using her (mother) cos she’s getting some money cos she could go out and get a job and get paid for it rather than just sitting at home and minding my child. So it takes some of the pressure off (Young mother, aged 17 years).
Table 2 provides an overview of the number of young parents engaging with TPSI who have benefited from the additional funding provided by the Department of Education and Science to assist young parents in education.
Table 2. Number of recipients of DES funding by project site and type of financial support given
Well money wise really when I went back to do my Leaving Cert it was this crowd here (the TPSI project) who helped financially. I got a one-off payment of like £80 or something (from social welfare) and I got this big lecture about how she wasn’t supposed to do it and it was just a once off and we don’t normally do it (Young mother, aged 18 years).
b. Liasing with statutory agencies on behalf of young parents
Each TPSI pilot project noted that an element of their work was liasing with statutory agencies and other organisations on behalf of the young parents, particularly to discuss issues such as financial entitlements. While this may not appear to be directly related to supporting young parents in education, the certainty of receiving a guaranteed amount of funding or allowances is vital to enable young parents return or continue in education.
She (TPSI project worker) got me on the course and I love it. The content of the course is great…….and as a well you get paid a few extra pounds for taking part in the course so I get a bit more money and I can give that directly to my Mam for our keep at home. Plus she minds the baby while I’m at the course in the morning and gets some money from FAS for doing that too. The course can last for up to 2 years and I think I’ll probably stay on it alright (Young mother, aged 18 years).
52 Case Study 2. Advocating for change
At one TPSI project site, it was noted that a number of young parents were returning to training schemes such as Youthreach within a very short period after giving birth. Young parents explained that this early return was due to the fact that they were significantly better off on their training grants compared to depending on discretionary payments from the CWO. TPSI project workers met with the Senior Community Welfare Officer for the relevant Health Board region to discuss this and facilitated the Senior CWO in meeting with young parents from the region to discuss this issue. Partly as a result of these discussions, SWA payments for young parents in this region awaiting receipt of the OFP were increased.
6.3.3. Protocol guidelines for best practice development within schools A key element of the work of the Limerick TPSI pilot project was the development of guidelines for mainstream post-primary schools to assist them in drawing up individual school guidelines on the care of pregnant schoolgirls and teenage parents. The guidelines seek to support those in management or pastoral care roles within schools to support teenage parents to stay in full-time education.
The TPSI project site in Limerick hosted a seminar ‘Teen Pregnancy and Parenthood in Schools – how do we respond?’ in April 2000 to consult with schools from Limerick City and County on the issue of teen pregnancy and parenthood in schools and to identify ways of responding to the issues raised by this. The seminar identified a clear need for the development of guidelines of good practice for schools that would enable them to offer optimum support to young parents and pregnant teenagers to remain in education.
Following from the seminar, a working group consisting of eleven representatives from schools in Limerick City and County and a representative each from the Health Promotion Unit, Adult Education Limerick County V.E.C., the Limerick TPSI project and the Midwest Parenting Initative were responsible for developing the protocol. This group began work in September 2000.
It is anticipated that the guidelines will be launched in late 2002. The guidelines are structured to
provide advice and guidance to schools in the following three areas:
(i) Schools supporting the student in disclosing the pregnancy;
(ii) Schools supporting the student for the duration of the pregnancy; and (iii) Schools supporting the student on their return to school following the birth of their child.
Following the launch of these guidelines, the Limerick TPSI project hopes to offer training and information to schools to assist them in the development and implementation of guidelines for each specific school.
6.3.4. Support and information After talking to the project (that is, TPSI) she gave me all the right information? So it completely changed things for me. That was useful. She told me I could go back to school – the fellow in the other office told me that I couldn’t go back to school, that I’d have to work (Young mother, aged 17 years).
A great deal of the projects work consisted of supporting young parents in making the decision to continue or return to education or training. This support took a range of forms ranging from meeting with young parents to discuss the various options available to them, referring them to other agencies and organisations, making contact with these agencies on behalf of the young parent, gathering information for young parents and bringing young parents to meet course tutors, teachers et cetera.
I was half thinking about doing some kind of a course but I probably wouldn’t have done anything without her (TPSI project worker). I’d still be sitting at home without her. She told me about the programme and got me to think about going there. I hadn’t made up my mind or anything but she called around one day to my house and brought me down here! She introduced me to the tutor who told me more about the course and stuff. I would never have got involved in this if it wasn’t for her (TPSI project worker) (Young mother, aged 17 years).
54 The Teen Parents Support Initiative recognised the importance of support programmes providing flexible responses to the diverse educational needs and abilities represented in the teenage parent population.
Case Study 3. Supporting and encouraging young parents to remain in or return to education
Fiona is a 19 year old mother who became involved with the project shortly after she gave birth. Prior to this she had been working and says she found it very hard for the first few months to adjust to the changes in her life although her family and boyfriend were very supportive. Going back to full-time education was not a serious option as she didn’t want to leave her child with a childminder for long periods but she still wanted to be involved in some form of activity. Through her contact with the project she learnt of a ECDL Computer Course being held at her local community centre one night a week from which she would gain a recognised qualification. The TPSI project paid the fees for the course and Fiona is now halfway through the course. She is really enjoying the course and feels much happier now that she has found a way to balance her wish to gain further qualifications and be a full-time mother as well. She notes that there was no way she could have done the course without firstly, the prompting and encouragement she got from the TPSI project worker, and secondly, the financial assistance she received from them.
6.4. Conclusion The Teen Parents Support Initiative recognised the importance of support programmes providing flexible responses to the diverse educational needs and abilities represented in the teenage parent population. The range of activities which TPSI pilot projects were involved in with young parents in the area of education reflects the different types and levels of need, support and interest that exist among teenage parents. Its recognition and support of the decisions young parents make, particularly with regard to combining education, training, employment and parenting, and its emphasis on devising individually tailored support plans for each young parent illustrates its understanding of the unique circumstances each young parent experiences.
Section seven Discussion and recommendations 56 Ensuring young parents continued engagement or re-engagement with education during pregnancy and after birth requires policies that not only support those still in education at time of conception or birth but also policies for those who, long before birth or pregnancy, are already detached from education.
7. IntroductionThe recommendations in this paper are generated with consideration of the work of the Initiative and with consideration to current policy debate and discussion in the area of education and training for young people and lone parents.34 Increased attention needs to be given to the multi-dimensional nature of educational disadvantage and exclusion. Providing appropriate education and training opportunities is a key step but "this alone will not be sufficient in providing solutions to the associated complexities of poverty and disadvantage" (NESF, 2001:26). This paper concurs with the NESF’s call for better access to local services and a more adequately resourced infrastructure of housing, health and welfare in order to focus in a more holistic way on the needs of children and young people.
Political and policy rhetoric in Ireland encourages young people to stay in school until they have gained some form of educational qualification. It is arguable that the limited options available for
pregnant and parenting teenagers have been made virtually invisible:
by discourses on education, vocational training and employment framed in ideal notions of choice, equal opportunity and gender equity (Milne-Home et al., 1997:24).
It is suggested that appropriate, timely, efficient and equitable educational provisions for young parents can only arise from a commitment to the rights of young parents themselves. The broad principles outlined in the Employment Equality Act 1998,35 the Equal Status Act 200036 and the Partnership 2000 Report on Equality Proofing have particular significance to the debate on young parents and education. Using an equality proofing approach to address the needs of young parents in education would place the emphasis on young parents entitlement to appropriate education and training rather than the concessionary approach largely prevalent at present.
Ensuring young parents continued engagement or re-engagement with education during pregnancy and after birth requires policies that not only support those still in education at time of conception or birth but also policies for those who, long before birth or pregnancy, are already detached from education. Research suggests that greater flexibility within the education system lessens the likelihood that teenage mothers will definitively disengage from the educational system as a result of early motherhood (Clarke et al., 1996).
34 In formulating this paper’s recommendations, due regard is given to the range of proposed strategies contained within policy documents such as the NESF Report on Lone Parents, the Report of the Joint Committee on Social, Community and Family Affairs, the National Children’s Strategy and the NAPS. These are positive policies and initiatives working to meet the needs of families, parents and children in general.