Part of the By a Wall series.

A new study by Dublin City University in conjunction with Peter McVerry Trust has revealed that there’s a link between suspension in school and homelessness with young men. They interviewed 51 men between 18 and 38 years old. The participants were all staying in facilities of Peter McVerry Trust. 

It was revealed that the expulsion rates for homeless men were higher than the national average. 55% of participants experienced some kind of exclusion from school. 24.5% of participants were temporarily suspended, 12.2% have had several instances of suspensions and 18.4% were permanently expelled. In contrast, there were only 167 expulsions in the general school population or 0.048% between 2016 and 2017. 

There was also “significant deterioration” of the educational experiences after primary school. 72% described their primary schooling as “good” or “excellent”, but 53% saw their post primary education as “fair” and “poor”. A participant said: “In primary, the teachers loved me. In secondary, the teachers hated me,”

68% of participants had also been through some kind of “traumatic childhood event”. While 50% suffered from anxiety and depression. The study observed that there was “inadequate emotional counselling” being provided and that being in emergency homeless shelters impeded their pursuit of education, despite 79% of participants expressing interest in continuing their education. 

Sarah Murphy, lead author of the study, said “This report reveals a range of preventable system failures in the Irish education system that are still ongoing today . . . These failures increase the risk of exclusion from the system and participation in society with knock-on impacts that heighten the risks of homelessness,”

The report recommended that the Department of Education to give a  “distinct and dedicated funding strand for adequate emotional counselling and/or therapeutic supports in and around schools to support trauma, mental health needs of vulnerable students”. The study advised that training on conflict resolution be provided to secondary school teachers. It recommended that emergency accommodation with quiet spaces be supplied to those still in education and that “community lifelong learning centres” be created for young people at risk of homelessnesss. 

Chief executive of Peter McVerry Trust, Pat Doyle, said that the report lets them move “beyond anecdotal reports from service users about their interaction with the education system and establish a robust evidence basis for our future work and for the education strategies of the State.”

He said: “Given the early age and length of time people will engage with the education system, it presents the best opportunity to positively impact on life outcomes for people. That is particularly true for those who may be more vulnerable or likely to experience homelessness due to their life circumstances.”