Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Education and Skills
154. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the exact criteria or threshold to be met for a secondary school (details supplied) to be designated as a DEIS school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50465/23]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.
My Department provides a wide range of supports to all schools, DEIS and non-DEIS, to support the inclusion of all students and address barriers to students achieving their potential.
Supplementing the universal supports available to all schools, the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) Programme is a key policy initiative of my Department to address concentrated educational disadvantage at school level in a targeted and equitable way across the primary and post-primary sector.
In March last year, I announced the single largest expansion of the DEIS programme. This benefited 361 schools. The programme now includes in the region of 1,200 schools and supports approximately 240,000 students. 1 in 4 students and 30% of schools are now supported in the programme.
This expansion added an additional €32million to my Department’s expenditure on the DEIS programme from 2023, bringing the overall Department of Education allocation for the programme to €180million.
Schools that were identified for inclusion in the programme were those with the highest levels of concentrated disadvantage as identified through the refined DEIS identification model, which is an objective, statistics-based model. Schools were not required to apply for inclusion in the DEIS programme and the model was applied fairly and equally to all schools.
The DEIS Identification process is based on the principle of concentrated disadvantage and the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds within a school. The DEIS identification model aimed to identify those schools with the highest levels of disadvantage or the highest proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds within a school using the school’s enrolment data and national census data as represented by the Pobal HP Deprivation index which is publicly available.
The development of this model involved an extensive body of work by the DEIS technical group, which included officials from my Department, the Department’s Inspectorate and the Educational Research Centre. The model used information from the school’s individual enrolment database and 2016 national census data as represented by the Pobal HP Deprivation index. The expansion of the DEIS programme in 2022 was done on the basis of a refined DEIS identification model, which for the first time took into consideration the significant educational disadvantage experienced by learners who have self-identified as being of Traveller or Roma ethnicity, those who reside in centres managed by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) and children who are experiencing homelessness. These cohorts were accounted for outside the HP index as it applies at small area level.
In accordance with Circular 0019/22 schools that were not satisfied with the outcome following the application of the DEIS identification model to their school enrolment data were provided with the opportunity to have that outcome reviewed. The DEIS appeals process was applied fairly across all appellants, the window for appeals has now closed and the results are final. My Department will continue to support schools to deliver high quality, inclusive teaching and learning to students and young learners.
In general where a DEIS post-primary school is amalgamating with a non-DEIS post primary schools, the newly amalgamated school will be considered non-DEIS but will retain some DEIS supports in respect of the students in the amalgamating DEIS school for a period of 6 years. The purpose is to ensure that students who are currently enrolled in the DEIS school or whose parents had opted to enrol in the next September, prior to confirmation of amalgamation, continue to avail of DEIS supports for the period of their post-primary years.
The supports retained include the DEIS grant, which will continue at the rate previously paid to the amalgamating DEIS school. Additionally, the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) allocation will be maintained at the level provided to the amalgamating DEIS school. Furthermore, the provision of School Meals will be sustained at the rate applicable to the amalgamating DEIS school.
While the newly formed school will not be included in the DEIS programme, the Department recognises the need to target resources to those schools who need them most. The extension of the DEIS programme to new schools is just one component of work in my vision for an inclusive education system which supports all learners to achieve their potential. While the DEIS programme supports those schools with the highest levels of concentrated educational disadvantage, I also recognise that there are students at risk of educational disadvantage in all schools. Since June 2020, and over the past four budgets, I have secured funding to provide measures to support children in this regard.
My Department recognises the need to target resources to those schools who need them most, the next phase of work will explore the allocation of resources to all schools to tackle educational disadvantage.
The DEIS Plan is based on the premise that in order to have the maximum possible impact on providing opportunities for students most at risk of educational disadvantage, then extra resources need to be targeted as closely as possible at those students with the greatest level of need. This will involve further development of the existing DEIS programme, to create a more dynamic resource allocation model where levels of resources more accurately follow the levels of need identified by objective data.
To support this work my Department has invited the OECD Strength Through Diversity: Education for Inclusive Societies Project to review the current policy approach for the allocation of resources to support students at risk of educational disadvantage in Ireland, this is currently ongoing and the OECD team estimate that the review will be complete in Q2 of 2024. This review will provide an independent expert opinion on the current resource allocation model for the DEIS programme and, drawing on international examples, inform a policy approach for an equitable distribution of supplementary resources to support students at risk of educational disadvantage attending all schools, both DEIS and non-DEIS.
In addition to this, following the National Census conducted in April 2022, an updated HP Deprivation index has now been generated by Pobal. My Department is engaging with Pobal regarding this development and it will be thoroughly reviewed to inform future resource allocation aimed at tackling educational disadvantage.