11 May 2023

To help support students that have been suspended from school, or are at risk of suspension, leading youth organisation YMCA Dublin has officially launched its Alternative Suspension Service today, at an event held at the YMCA hub on Aungier Street on Wednesday, 10th May.


Over 11,000 students are suspended in Ireland each year, which is almost 4% of the school population at post-primary level. The service, which is currently in its second year pilot, aims to target approximately 40 students per year, to support them through the challenges of suspension. Year two of the pilot has seen an increase of referrals from schools by 11% and 70% of participants in year two reported that felt they were ready to return to school as a result of the course, an increase of 11% one year one.


To date, the Alternative Suspension Service has received €67,000 in funding from the Late Late Toy Show Appeal through the Community Foundation and has been designed to support students that have been suspended from school and aims to reduce the number of repeat suspensions. The service aims to offer students the opportunity to transform their time away from school into a positive experience that fosters their personal development and autonomy.


Kathryn O’Mahony, CEO of YMCA Dublin said: “We are delighted to finally launch our Alternative Suspension service at YMCA Dublin and support students not only that are suspended from school, but are at risk of being suspended. The service helps to develop personal and social skills through workshops adapted to the students’ realities and applicable to their school context, while understanding students’ attitudes towards school, identifying what they value and what motivates them. It has seen demonstrated success in Canada, where the service was first launched - leading to 80% decrease in repeat suspensions and 50% of participants experiencing fewer disciplinary actions for several months.”


Kathryn added, “In Ireland, over 11,000 students are suspended each year, but this figure does not represent students who at risk of suspension, those who are on a reduced timetable for disciplinary reasons, or those who are suspended for fewer than 3 days. We would like to see this figure accurately represented and ideally, reduced significantly over the next few years. Support systems such as the Alternative Suspension Service, should become a national priority to help support vulnerable students.”


Green Party Councillor, Claire Byrne, deputising on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, said: “YMCA Dublin continue to do excellent work in supporting the youth and families in the local community. The Alternative Suspension Service is something every school should consider, as not only does it reduce suspension and the risk of suspension, it significantly increases academic engagement and offers students the opportunity to view their experience on the service as a chance to learn and grow, both personally and academically.”


YMCA Dublin has an extensive history of engaging with local communities and working with young people, adults and families in need of support. Through Youthwork, PlusOne mentoring, community work, Childcare and community employment, YMCA Dublin supports the development of skills, experiences, relationships and behaviours for healthy, confident and successful futures.


For more information on the work of YMCA Dublin and it’s services, please visit www.YMCA.ie