Thursday, 1 July 2021
Department of Education and Skills
241. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the planned measures to support children and young persons who are at risk of the highest levels of educational disadvantage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35399/21]
Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) is the main policy initiative of my Department to tackle educational disadvantage at school level. The DEIS Plan sets out the vision for interventions in the critical area of educational disadvantage policy and is based on the findings of an extensive review of the DEIS programme, which involved consultations with all relevant stakeholders.
In the 2020/21 school year there are 887 schools in the DEIS Programme serving 185,000 pupils (689 primary and 198 post primary). This includes 79 schools, who had the highest concentrated levels of disadvantage, were added to the DEIS Programme for the first time from September 2017
My Department spend on DEIS in 2021 is over €150million, with additional funding provided from Department of Social Protection for the School Meals Programme.
In March I announced a package of measures to tackle educational disadvantage. My announcement includes a one point improvement on the staffing schedule for all DEIS Urban Band 1 schools. This will allow for a preferential pupil teacher ratio for those schools with the highest concentrations of learners at risk of educational disadvantage.
I have also announced a 5% increase in the budget of the School Completion Programme and extension of the School Completion programme to 28 Urban Band 1 and post-primary schools newly included in DEIS in 2017. The School Completion Programme is one of the key supports available in DEIS schools to support attendance, participation and retention of learners. The enrolment threshold for the allocation of an additional deputy principal in DEIS post-primary schools, was also reduced from 700 to 600 students.
Responding to specific actions in the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS), a 2 year pilot project has been established to target attendance, participation and school completion in specific Traveller and Roma Communities regionally. There are a total of 55 schools participating, in which over 1,300 Traveller and Roma children are enrolled.
Since March 2020, my Department has put in place a number of measures to support vulnerable learners and those at risk of educational disadvantage during possible partial or full school closures due to Covid-19. It is crucially important that the learning of all learners, especially vulnerable learners and those at risk of educational disadvantage are supported at this time.
Tusla Education Support Services engaged with principals to promote connectedness to schools for children who are at risk of educational disadvantage and liaised directly with Direct Provision accommodation centres, refuges for families experiencing domestic violence and homeless hubs to ensure students were linked with their schools.
I recently announced the provision of expanded summer education programmes, for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure, for summer 2021. The programmes are available to all primary and post primary free education schools, and aims to support pupils to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote wellbeing and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers. Under this expansion of the summer programme, students with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage will have access to an enhanced summer programme of education. The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.