Prepared to ‘bang down’ Minister’s door for funding

By Mary Dennehy

AN AFTER-SCHOOL homework programme in Fettercairn that helps to prevent children from falling through the cracks in education is in desperate need of funding to continue.

Last September, the Fettercairn Youth and Community Centre started a pilot after-school homework club, an initiative which took on an extra importance when the homework club run by the local primary school, St Anne’s, was forced to close due to a Government funding cut.

Fettercairn CS 03

Fettercairn is one of four areas in Tallaght that have been identified as a ‘disadvantaged’ community, with 40 per cent of its population of 7,614 (Central Statistics Office 2011) living in local authority housing – compared to a national average of just under eight per cent.

However, despite a number of challenges, Fettercairn has grown into a progressive community that boasts key facilities such as the Fettercairn Youth and Community Centre, the Fettercairn Horse Project, the Fettercairn Estate Management, a local conference of St Vincent de Paul, great schools, a close proximity to the Luas Red Line and the Citywest Shopping Centre and more.

A new asset to Fettercairn was the community centre’s after-school programme, which, through working alongside St Anne’s primary school, was supporting children in completing their homework and learning new skills and hobbies.

Mary Keegan, project co-ordinator, told The Echo that children chosen to participate in the club were picked up daily from school and brought to the community centre, where they completed their homework before being introduced to activities such as growing your own food, cooking, arts and crafts, drama and relaxation.

When all the work and play was finished, each child was given a hot meal.

Ms Keegan said: “It’s such a disappointment that the project has ceased due to a lack of funding.

“This programme can be life-changing and provides children with skills necessary for secondary school and further afield, skills which can help them escape the cycle of poverty.”

An evaluation report was carried out on the after-school club and, according to the Fettercairn and Youth Community Centre manager, Shay L’Estrange: “The evaluation report concludes that the after-school homework programme has been a success, with all the stakeholders (parents/guardians, children, staff and the local school principal) extolling the benefits and value of the programme and displaying their willingness and approval for the continuance of the programme.

“It is evident to us that there is an overarching need for an after-school homework club to be set up not just in Fettercairn but in any area that suffers from social and economic disadvantage.

“We live in a very unequal society and education is one way of breaking this inter-generational plague of social and economic disadvantage that is a constant in areas such as Fettercairn.”

Now seeking funding for the project, Mr L’Estrange added: “Proving the need for an after-school group through the evaluation was the easy bit.

“The hard bit is to now find a way of financing it and in this regard we would not be just knocking on the newly elected local TD and Minister Katherine Zappone’s door, we will be banging it down demanding funding for what can only be described as an essential component of the education system in an area of disadvantage.”

A call was placed with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone’s office, but a comment was not received in time for print.

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