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DCU research casts light on reasons for staff leaving Youthreach programme

The research from Dr Margaret Farren and Sean Manley aims to identify issues so service can design supports and improve staff retention.

A national review of Ireland’s Youthreach programme for early school leavers, found staff
retention to be a future challenge for the programme. In response, this study explores the
programme's unique characteristics to identify factors influencing staff intention to leave.
Youthreach provides full-time education for 15 to 20-year-olds with learning, emotional, and
behavioural difficulties, with 4,236 students enrolled nationally in 2022. 

Students in Youthreach tend to present with high levels of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), with
four or more ACEs found to increase the risk of physical disease, depression, drug abuse,
and suicide risk.

Informed by interview and survey data from Youthreach staff, the study findings draw
attention to emerging themes specific to Youthreach including the profound emotional impact
of working with at-risk young people. The factors most influencing staff retention were staff
burnout, perceived professional role inequity, and work commitment of staff to the
Youthreach model.

The study findings highlight the profound emotional impact that working with at-risk young people had on Youthreach staff. A strong sense of inequity in professional standing contributed to intention to leave and was a possible recruitment barrier.

Dr Margaret Farren is Associate Professor in the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies. Sean Manley is a PhD candidate at the DCU Institute of Education, and a Project Officer on the Synapses Erasmus+ Teacher Academy programme.