Is your local school among 310 to get more teachers and funds under expanded Deis scheme?

Disadvantaged programme expanded to include schools attended by 60,000 students

Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State for special education Joespha Madigan. Some 310 schools are to be added to the Deis programme of support for schools with at-risk students. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Some 310 schools attended by more than 60,000 students are to benefit from additional teaching posts, free schoolbooks and home supports under an expansion of the Deis programme for students at risk of disadvantage.

The €32 million expansion of the scheme means one in four students will attend a school where these additional supports are available from next September.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said no school will lose out on its existing Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) status, while some will qualify for additional supports.

“This is the single biggest investment in educational disadvantage in the history of the State,” she said.

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“Equality of opportunity in education must be a primary objective. Since becoming minister, I have been very keen to ensure to the absolute maximum that we make available to our students that very opportunity.”

Currently 884 primary and secondary schools and over 180,000 students benefit from the Deis programme. This will increase to 1,194 schools and over 240,000 students from September 2022.

From September 2022, these schools will be able to access all their additional supports.

Schools were identified for inclusion in the programme through a refined Deis identification model.

The Department of Education says it is a statistics-based model which uses information from enrolment databases and a deprivation index developed by two researchers, the late Trutz Haase and his colleague Jonathan Pratschke.

Schools were not required to apply for inclusion in the Deis programme and the department says the model has been applied fairly and equally to all schools.

A new version of the Deis identification model captures a greater breadth of disadvantage and accounts for severity of disadvantage.

It also take into account the significant educational disadvantage experienced by Traveller and Roma learners and of students residing in direct provision or emergency homeless accommodation.

Schools in the Deis programme avail of a range of targeted supports aimed at tackling educational disadvantage, including additional classroom teachers , home school community liaison officers, Deis grant funding. access to the school completion supports.

The most disadvantaged primary schools - in Deis band one - also benefit from smaller class sizes with 21 students for every teacher, in most cases.

The additional investment will provide for in the region of 160 additional primary teachers, 100 additional home school community liaison officers, additional guidance and leadership posts as well as Deis grants and enhanced book grant funding.

Responding to the announcement, the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation (INTO) gave the decision a qualified welcome.

"It is clear from today's announcement that 310 primary schools will have more certainty in respect of the future supports they will receive for many of the most vulnerable children in the country. These schools have waited far too long to be included in the scheme," said INTO general secretary John Boyle.

"That said, the fact remains that the vast majority of children in Ireland, including many in our Deis schools, are being taught in class sizes well above the EU and OECD averages.

Ms Foley said latest research indicates that the attainment gap between Deis and non-Deis schools has been narrowing.

She said many OECD countries such as France were not getting the same outcomes from their investment in tackling educational disadvantage and were studying the Irish scheme.The Department of Education said it will work with the schools that will benefit from the programme to support them to make the transition.

Information sessions will be held for schools in the coming weeks on the Deis programme, what supports will be available to schools and to support them in planning for improvement.

Materials are in development to inform parents and students of the benefits of inclusion in the Deis programme.

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Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent