Tuesday, 28 February 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Participation
322. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department has plans to promote third level education to those attending secondary schools in working class areas; if he will address possible concerns that there are financial barriers to attending third level education for those in working class areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10158/17]
A number of measures are supporting increased rates of transition to further and higher education by students in disadvantaged second level schools. These include the actions that are being progressed as part of the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019 and the new DEIS Plan.
The new DEIS Plan identifies more than 100 actions targeted at our most disadvantaged schools. This includes:
- Operation of a Book Rental Scheme will become a mandatory requirement for schools participating in the School Support Programme by September 2017
- A series of pilot schemes will aim to encourage innovation and creativity in schools and the development of these initiatives will be supported by a School Excellence Fund; encouraging innovation through school clustering
- Target supports for School leaders and teachers to equip them to support children to achieve their full potential (e.g. professional leadership training, preparation courses for newly appointed principals, mentoring and coaching courses)
- All post-primary schools participating in the School Support Programme will have access to a dedicated career guidance counsellor
- Appointment of an additional 10 NEPS psychologists to improve supports to DEIS schools
- Reduced class sizes in urban primary schools with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage.
My Department also provides a range of supports that are intended to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and other under-represented groups, to overcome financial barriers to accessing and completing higher education. Funding supports include the Student Grant Scheme, the Student Assistance Fund, the Fund for Students with Disabilities and a number of scholarship and bursary schemes targeted at students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In addition, the HEA allocates funding to support the work of Higher Education Access Programmes with schools. These aim to support more students from linked schools in making the transition to higher education. Initiatives include mentoring for students in schools, support for teachers, guidance seminars, orientation and pre and post entry academic and pastoral support.
The HEA will shortly issue a call for proposals to third level institutions working with disadvantaged communities to improve attendance rates from these communities at third level institutions. This call is the second strand of the Programme for Access to Third Level (PATH) programme which aims to support access from currently under-represented groups.
In total, my Department will invest approximately €450 million in higher education access measures in 2017.
The universities also collaborate in operating the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme through the CAO. Under this scheme second level students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are supported in competing for a higher education place on the basis of lower Leaving Certificate points.