Donegal schools not awarded Deis ‘should contact Department’

Selection model uses a new affluence and deprivation model to assess school suitability

The new DEIS school support programme will be implemented from September 2017. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

The new DEIS school support programme will be implemented from September 2017. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Images

 

Schools in Donegal not included in the latest list of Deis-designated schools have been advised to contact the Department of Education to seek verification on their individual assessments.

Donegal TD and Minister of State for the Diaspora and Overseas Development Joe McHugh said an announcement this week adding 79 schools to the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (Deis) scheme was “just the beginning” of a new programme to help schools that need additional supports.

The list of schools that will receive additional supports under the Deis scheme in 2017 was published on Tuesday and drew controversy in Donegal following the omission of a number of schools from the list.

Qualifying schools were identified using a new affluence and deprivation model (the Haase Pratschke Index of Deprivation), which the Deis 2017 report acknowleged would be subject to ongoing evaluation “to ensure that it is using those variables which best predict the risk of educational disadvantage.”

“While this new methodology is considered to be a significant improvement on the system used in 2005 in terms of assessing socio-economic disadvantage, it is acknowledged that further work will be required to refine its application in terms of resource allocation,” the report said.

Fianna Fáil TD Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher cited two schools - Gort a’Choirce and Rath na Feirste - as “two glaring examples” of schools that he said should be included in the scheme.

Comparing the circumstances facing each school with nearby schools that qualified for Deis, Mr Gallagher told Highland Radio “the socio-economic factors are the same”.

“I am furious. I have spoken with so many people there … it’s not right that those people have to delve into their pockets and fork out monies to help these schools provide additional services when other schools do not have to have this.”

Mr Gallagher was critical of the process used to assess each school and said more communication was warranted.

“I think they take a lot of information from the census and that’s not good enough there should be direct communications with the schools with those who know best what their social and economic circumstances are,” he said.

Mr Gallagher said he would raise the matter with the Minister for Education this week.

Sinn Féin was critical of funds allocated to the scheme for 2017 and the party’s spokesperson for education, Carol Nolan, said the plan “will not even restore Deis funding to 2015 levels.”

“The current allocation of €97 million for Deis is €13 million short of the 2015 expenditure of €110 million and the additional €5 million provided for in the plan for 2017 will not even restore the funding levels to this point,” she said in a statement.

“In the meantime the numbers of children in disadvantaged households have grown, as evidenced by figures from the European Anti-Poverty Network which shows that the level of children living in consistent poverty in Ireland rose from 6.3 per cent in 2008 to 11.5 per cent in 2015.

“Indeed the fact that the Minister has identified at least 80 additional schools to be included in the Deis scheme shows that the level of educational disadvantage has risen since the moratorium on new Deis schools introduced in 2009.”

In total, twenty-two schools in Co Donegal will avail of the programme in 2017.

Mr McHugh said verification of the data submitted by the schools can be sought from the department and added that failure to qualify on this occasion will not impede their inclusion on the list at a later date.

“The fact that a school has not been included in the programme on this occasion does not preclude its inclusion at a later date, should its level of disadvantage warrant the allocation of additional resources,” he said.

“I have lobbied on behalf of many schools and will continue to do so, so that there is a better chance of it being included during the next phase of Minister’s Bruton’s review,” Mr McHugh said.