Minister Fitzgerald launches report on consultation with 66,705 children and young people
Scoil Chaitriona, Baggot Street, Dublin
At the launch of 'Life as a child and young person in Ireland: Report of a national consultation', Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with children who took part in the consultation
Wednesday, 7th November 2012
Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has today launched, Life as a Child and Young Person in Ireland: Report of a National Consultation.
This consultation was conducted in April 2011 and was completed by 66,705 children and young people across the State.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “This report documents the views of 66,705 children and young people and is the biggest public consultation with children and young people ever conducted in Ireland. The last time such a consultation took place, back in 1999, ahead of preparations for the National Children’s Strategy, there were only 825 responses from children and young people. More remarkably, I note that there are over 4,000 schools in Ireland, and some 38% of these participated in the consultation.”
The Minister added that “the scale of this consultation demonstrates the commitment of this Government, of my Department and I to listen to the views of children and young people. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I encourage children and young people to play an active role in civic society and this Report is an example of such engagement.
The Minister commented that her Department’s Citizen's Participation Unit have become world-leaders in the field of consulting with children and young people.
Responding to the Report findings, Minister Fitzgerald stated: “The findings of this consultation provide an interesting insight into contemporary Irish childhood and youth.”
Education emerged a key issue in the consultation with children and young people expressing satisfaction with the Irish education system. However 22% of children and 27% of young people also indicated that they would like to change some aspect of the education system. In particular, young people highlighting concerns such as the need for a greater emphasis on science facilities and better use of technology in schools.
The Minister stated: “The fact that our tech-savvy young people can identify concerns in this regards should lend a focus to the Government’s ongoing efforts to realise the vision for 21st Century Schools set-out in the Programme for Government; a vision which proposes that technology in education should no longer be considered as a stand-alone element but instead should be integrated across education policy.”
Another finding common to young people and children is the need for additional play and recreational facilities.
The Minister stated that “this finding justifies much of my efforts to prioritise the promotion and development of play and recreation opportunities for young people. Only last Thursday I announced €2.25 million in capital funding for youth cafes, youth projects and play areas.”
The findings of this consultation will inform development of the new Children and Young People’s Policy Framework which is currently being prepared by my Department. The Minister stated that “the new Policy Framework will represent a dynamic and forward-looking Government Strategy for Ireland’s Children and Young People” and she added that “the views of the nearly 67,000 children and young people who engaged in this consultation will help shape this Framework”.
In addition to this consultation with children and young people, a further public consultation was conducted during June and July. Over 1,000 submissions were received from parents, practitioners and organisations working with children and young people. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is in the process of analysing these submissions.
Professor Catherine Comiskey from Trinity College Dublin said: ‘the response rate was enormous with responses from every county in Ireland. 38% of all schools in the country took part, compared with an expected response rate of 10%, which is the international norm for such consultations. It was agreed that the views of all 66,705 children and young people should be included and our team in TCD came up with a mechanism for analysing all consultation forms.’
Oisín O’Connor (aged 10) was involved in designing the children’s version of the report. ‘I wasn’t surprised that education was the top thing in the consultation because everybody gets an education and it’s for free and most schools in Ireland are very good. But, I think the best thing about being a child is ‘Being Irish’ because we have our own sports, we are known to be nice, we have a lot of parades such as St. Patrick’s Day, which millions of tourists come to see and we have our own ways like Irish dancing and the Irish language. I think we should be happy to be Irish and not like other countries living with a war.’
Catherine Hunt (aged 15) was involved in designing the young people’s version of the report. ‘I’m not surprised that education came out on top because it’s such an important thing in a young person’s life. Families are finding it hard to pay to put their children through school because of the recession,’ said Catherine. She noted that sports and activities were 2nd and 3rd most important for young people. ‘Sports and activities give chances to develop new skills, get new friends and become more confident. I do free style disco dancing and I’m in Dublin City Comhairle na nÓg and they have given me great confidence. The top things young people want to change are also about education. They want better facilities, science labs and more computers. Another thing young people want to change is for employers to make more jobs available for young people.’
James Malseed, Deputy Principal, Kill O’ the Grange National School said: ‘I was a member of the Oversight Committee for the consultation and I actively involved children from my school in all stages of the process.’