Celebrating Completion of YMCA Dublin’s Alternative Suspension Programme Pilot

We are proud to announce that the three-year pilot phase of YMCA Dublin’s Alternative Suspension (AS) Programme is due to successfully conclude at the end of June 2024. 

This innovative program has achieved remarkable success, delivering significant positive outcomes for the young people involved. Due to its success, we plan to permanently embed this programme into YMCA Dublin Youth Services.

Addressing a Critical Gap

The AS Programme, adapted from YMCA Canada, fills a crucial gap in statutory educational support by helping students who have been suspended or are at risk of suspension. It reduces educational disengagement, improves academic performance, and promotes positive social and emotional outcomes. During the pilot phase, students continued their schoolwork and participated in discussions on anger management and conflict resolution while exploring their strengths and motivations.

Despite research showing its ineffectiveness, at-home suspension remains widely used, with 9,500 students suspended in Ireland in 2021/2022 Suspended students often lack supervision, requiring parents to arrange childcare, which adds to family strain. Recurring suspensions indicate that this measure alone does not reduce problematic behaviour.

Disengagement from education, loss of structure, and decreased educational momentum can negatively impact students. School suspension is linked to higher rates of early school leaving and involvement with the juvenile justice system. An American Academy of Pediatrics study found that students with multiple suspensions are up to 10 times more likely to leave school early and face higher risks of juvenile justice involvement. The Peter McVerry Trust found that 24.5% of their service users had experienced suspensions, with 12.2% facing multiple suspensions, compared to a national average of 0.048%.

Transforming Exclusion into Growth

The AS Programme transforms exclusionary experiences into constructive ones by providing a structured environment for students to continue their education and develop practical tools for the future. It ensures academic progress through curriculum-based activities and helps students explore the root causes of their behaviours, fostering reflective understanding and growth.

Key Objectives and Successes

The AS Programme aims for participants to:

  • Show measurable improvement in academic performance and engagement post-AS.
  • Experience fewer disciplinary actions and avoid re-suspension.
  • Feel supported and equipped with coping tools to re-engage with their school community and studies.

Since its introduction, the AS Programme has demonstrated significant outcomes:

  • 219% increase in positive academic engagement
  • 39% increase in punctuality
  • 45% reduction in physical violence
  • 34% reduction in bullying
  • 26% reduction in disruptive behaviour

Expanding Our Reach

The programme was initially designed as a crisis intervention, but it has expanded significantly since the pilot launch. Thanks to funding from Community Foundation Ireland (CFI), we have been able to incorporate early intervention measures for at-risk primary school students, thus broadening the scope of the programme.

We are also actively engaging with schools in Belmayne, supporting students from Belmayne Educate Together Secondary School, and will offer continued support to students from the Belmayne and Clongriffin Community next term.

Seeking Support for Long-Term Impact

To expand this impactful programme, we present a unique opportunity for a corporate partner or benefactor to get involved and support the transition of the Alternative Suspension programme from its pilot phase to a fully embedded, sustained, and growing initiative. Such involvement can help provide vital opportunities to underserved communities and young people.

By partnering with us, you can ensure this essential service continues to thrive and reach more students in need across Dublin. This is your chance to make a significant impact and help transform the lives of young people and their communities. 

Alternative Suspension has created a mechanism for early intervention for students at risk of disciplinary sanctions. The team gives students an opportunity to reflect on their behaviour and purpose in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

They tap into the student’s needs, have time to listen, and facilitate personal learning that creates meaningful change. The school has used the service regularly and is keen to foster further links with Alternative Suspension and YMCA Dublin.

Our involvement in the programme has given us a tool for supporting students who need individual intervention and can prevent more serious disciplinary sanctions. In this way, it has been hugely beneficial. The sustained support, in advance, during and after the students take part in AS gives continuity to students, parents and the school. This service is providing valuable resources to our school where state resources for such interventions are seriously out of step with the students’ needs and profile

Guidance Counsellor, Presentation College, Terenure

To learn more about how you can support the expansion of Alternative Suspension, and make a tangible difference in the lives of at-risk young people and their communities, contact Ashling on ashling.cronin@ymca-ireland.net  or 01 478 2607