Thursday, 1 July 2021
Department of Education and Skills
The School Excellence Fund (SEF) is an initiative developed under the Programme for a Partnership Government 2016 to encourage and recognise excellence and innovation in our schools. Since 2016 my Department launched a number of strands of SEF including SEF-DEIS, Gaeltacht, Digital, STEM and Step up (Leadership).
The overarching aim of the SEF-DEIS strand is to improve learning outcomes for young people. In order to achieve this, schools participating in the SEF-DEIS strand are challenged to promote innovation by adopting new evidence-based approaches to tackling under-performance in literacy and in the STEM subjects or in the Arts subjects. My Department provided total funding of €1.8m for SEF-DEIS. Thirty clusters, comprising approximately 100 early years settings, primary and post-primary schools and operating on a cross-sectoral basis are currently participating in the SEF-DEIS.
Sharing learning across clusters is regarded as an important element of the SEF-DEIS. To date, two shared learning days have been held. There are no plans to extend participation in the SEF-DEIS strand beyond the current thirty clusters. The focus of my Department will be on facilitating participant schools and education settings to identify and share good practice arising from their SEF-DEIS work. There will also be a focus on supporting schools to ensure they successfully capture data and information relating to the outcomes of their work.
Since 2017, a budget of in the region of €20m has been made available to support the implementation of the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme, which forms part of the overall implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education. The 105 primary schools and 29 post-primary schools participating in the scheme receive a range of additional supports and resources. Due to the unprecedented school closures resulting from the COVID pandemic, the original 5 year term of the Scheme has been extended up to the 2023/24 school year to provide schools with more time to implement the language based criteria to gain recognition as Gaeltacht schools.
There are some 40 clusters participating in the SEF Digital & STEM programme, 9 of which are under the STEM strand. Some €1 million in funding is provided to over 200 primary and post-primary schools participating across both strands. The programme commenced in the 2018/19 school year, and was intended to run for 3 years but is extended to end 2021/22 school year in recognition of the impact of the pandemic. An evaluation of the programme is underway and the outcome from this evaluation will be considered in the context of applying the learnings to the wider system.
Step up (leadership) SEF was a two year programme for the 2018/2019 and 2019/20 school years.The programme was a joint initiative between my Department's Inspectorate and Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) to recognise where schools were engaging in very good practice in implementing the Junior Cycle. The final report is due to be published by my Department and JCT in due course. The learnings gathered from the project have been incorporated into the work of JCT and will also be available to schools once the final report is published. There are no plans to extend the programme.