Hundreds of schools in disadvantaged areas to be added to Deis scheme

Special education to account for a quarter of Department of Education spend in 2022

Minister for Education Norma Foley on Wednesday attended a  press breifing on Budget 2022 at the Department of Education in Dublin 1. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Education Norma Foley on Wednesday attended a press breifing on Budget 2022 at the Department of Education in Dublin 1. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Hundreds of schools in the most disadvantaged areas will be added to the Deis (delivering equality of opportunity in schools) scheme next year as part of an €18 million expansion of the programme.

During a press briefing about her department’s €9.2 billion allocation in Budget 2022, Minister for Education Norma Foley said the additional funding would bring the spend on the scheme next year to €32 million.

The Minister said a review of the Deis model, due to be completed in the spring, would enable expansion of the programme to “hundreds” more schools, but she was unable to rule out the possibility that some currently in the scheme could lose the status.

Ms Foley said the model used to identify which schools qualify for the scheme was undergoing its first major review since it was introduced in 2005.

Asked whether some schools currently in the scheme could end up losing the status if others were found to be more disadvantaged or to better fit the revised model, the Minister would not give a commitment.

When pressed further, she said: “The most fair thing to say at this point in time is that the entire focus is on expanding Deis. I am very conscious that every school has its own needs and different needs.

“No two schools are the same. So currently what we are looking at, the entire focus is on accessing Deis and bringing as many schools as we can from the most disadvantaged areas into Deis.”

Pupil-teacher ratios

Deis schools - of which there are 884 - benefit from lower pupil-teacher ratios, home-school liaison teachers, additional grants and access to the school completion programme.

Ms Foley would not give an indication as to when, if ever, free primary school-books would be provided. This is a long-held demand of anti-poverty charities like Barnardos and was not mentioned in the Budget.

She said “significant progress” had been made on the matter but there was a “continuing job of work to be done there”.

“We will continue. I am aware many schools do run free school books schemes… It’s something we are constantly keeping under review based on our capacity,” she said.

She said the pupil-teacher ratio would decrease next year, from 25:1 to 24:1 at primary level, which will necessitate the recruitment of an additional 350 teachers.

Once-off funding of €20 million is being provided to fund the purchase of books, audio books and other reading materials for schools, which will be available next year.

Special education

In special education, an “ambitious programme” is planned that will see the recruitment of 980 special education teachers across primary and second-level and 1,165 special needs assistants (SNAs).

Minister of State for special education Josepha Madigan said she was “delighted” with the “largest budget for special education we have ever had”. It accounted for one quarter of the entire expenditure budget at the department, she said.

“We know it has been a difficult few years for people, especially in our education system, and we want to make sure people have the support they need.”

Other items announced by the Ministers on Wednesday included additional capitation funding for voluntary secondary schools in the free education system “to rectify historical inconsistencies in capitation funding at post-primary level”; €30 million to increase investment in school transport, funding for 200 school-building projects and an additional €30 million for projects to be carried out as part of next year’s summer works scheme, bringing funding for this to €65 million.