Presentation Sisters iScoil Education Initiative wins Government AwardBack
Early school leaving is a hidden social issue in Irish society. Every year 3,300 students between the ages of 12 – 16 years old leave the formal education system. This figure equates to 9 young people leaving school every day of the year. iScoil was born out of the belief that all young people inherently want to learn but not all are ‘school shaped’. Our research has shown that there are occasions in young people’s lives when, for whatever reason, they become disengaged from school. There can be many reasons behind such disengagement but they typically include issues such as: anxiety, phobia, behavioural issues, bullying, social disadvantage, medical conditions and family situations.
iScoil helps early school leavers to get an education by providing an online, blended learning programme for each young person. Set up by the Presentation Sisters in 2007, iScoil is an online learning community that offers an alternative path to learning, accreditation and progression for pupils aged 13-16 years.
It was one of four projects, chosen from almost seventy applications, to be the recipient of Ireland’s first ‘Thinktech’ accelerator programme Award. Supported by Google Ireland and the Irish Government, Social Innovation Fund (SIFI) the award is designed to showcase social enterprise and technical innovation. The iScoil service was praised for demonstrating excellence and innovation in using technology in addressing a critical social issue in Ireland today.
What iScoil offers is unique in an Irish setting. It is an online education programme, tailored to students’ interests and abilities that, on completion, earn them a QQI Level 3 award, the equivalent of the Junior Cert. iScoil has offered a transformative way of learning to about 56 early school leavers every year. They are referred by Tusla’s Education Welfare Officers after all other efforts to get them engaged with mainstream education have failed. In recent years iScoil has received matched funding from the Department of Education & Skills.
Marianne Checkley, Chief Executive Officer of iScoil, explains, “What the students have in common is that mainstream learning hasn’t worked for them for whatever reason. It could be due to anxiety, a social phobia, behavioural issues or an illness”.
With the THINKTECH Award finance iScoil will be able to invest in developing a Growth Plan. “The spirit of Nano Nagle lives on in the service that iScoil provides for its young people through its transformative educational programme” said Sr Ann Marie Quinn PBVM, iScoil Company Director, “â€‹This award is an acknowledgement of many years of financial support and commitment by the Presentation Sisters in Ireland, the dedication of the iScoil Executive Team and Mentors, Board Directors and Members.” .