9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Education Structures I Building I, 2E8

Education and training for lone parents in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, consistent poverty rates among one-parent families have increased from 27% in 2005 to 32.5% in 2006. Children in Northern Ireland are twice as likely to be living in poverty as children from other parts of the UK (Save the Children, 2008). These stark statistics form the background to this research project examining the education and training available to single mothers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The main problem facing many single mothers is the inability to escape the poverty-trap, regardless of being in or out of employment. The reality is that employment does not necessarily mean the cure to poverty. In fact, low educational attainment of lone parents is a major cause of high poverty rates as low educational qualifications are directly linked to low skilled and poorly paid jobs. Part-time and low paid jobs also lead to high exit rates. Encouraging single mothers to enter or return to education and training has been one objective of both governments (in NI and the ROI).
This paper will show that the majority of single mothers want to gain better qualifications by returning to training and education. However, the infrastructure to support single mothers into education is inadequate. Single mothers are faced with multiple difficulties when trying to access training and education. These range from not knowing where to start looking for a training course to a feeling of guilt and a severe lack of self-confidence which is very common in single-mothers who have been out of the labour market for a considerable length of time. Single mothers who have returned to education or training find it hard to continue or finish their studies due to added pressures, such as lack of finances, flexibility, transport, childcare and other supports. Subsequently, the dropout rate among single-mothers attending training courses is high.
These practical issues are a direct result of complex structural inequalities embedded in both societies which have led to women?s inferior social and economic position which in turn has seriously disadvantaged single women on a number of levels.