Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
392. Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when proposals to address educational disadvantage will be announced; if these proposals will include more provision for early childhood education in areas where disadvantage is prevalent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28017/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, the new action plan for educational inclusion, which I launched last May, aims to ensure the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed. The plan provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP, which will bring together and build upon a number of existing interventions for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. Approximately 600 primary schools, comprising 300 urban or town and 300 rural and 150 second-level schools, will be included in the SSP. The new action plan will be introduced on a phased basis — starting during the current school year — and will involve an additional annual investment of €40 million on full implementation. It will also involve the provision of some 300 additional posts across the education system.
The key principle of early intervention underpins both the early childhood education measure and many of the literacy and numeracy measures under the new action plan. Key measures to be implemented on a phased basis over the next five years include: improving identification of disadvantage in respect of which a standardised approach will allow my Department to target resources more effectively; increasing early childhood education provision in the most disadvantaged communities; improving supports for pupils with low attainment levels in literacy and numeracy; enhancing procedures for measuring the outcomes achieved from educational inclusion measures; enhancing integration and partnership working, both within the education sector itself and cross-sectorally; enhancing professional development supports for principals and school staff; and enhancing research and evaluation.
Also central to the success of the action plan will be an increased emphasis on planning at school and school cluster level, target-setting and measurement of progress and outcomes to ensure the increased investment is matched by an improvement in educational outcomes for the children and young people concerned.
The action plan aims to concentrate early childhood education actions on those children, aged from three up to school enrolment, who will subsequently attend the 150 urban or town primary schools, participating in the new school support programme, and identified as serving the most disadvantaged communities. The early childhood actions under the new plan will be well targeted and my Department will work in partnership with other Departments and agencies with a view to meeting the overall care and education needs of the children involved in an integrated way. A strong emphasis will be placed on adding value to the work of other providers by embedding quality early learning within child care provision.
393. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take in response to the disparity in third level progression highlighted by the recent City of Dublin Vocational Educational Committee report which, among other findings, gave a 60% rate of third level progression for Rathmines as against a 7.8% rate for Finglas. [28019/05]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): Comprehensive surveys of participation in third level education, based on CAO data, have been conducted since the 1980s by the Higher Education Authority. The most recent sample survey, for 2005, shows there has been a significant improvement in the progression rate of young people in the Finglas-Ballymun, Dublin 11, area to third level education which has risen from 14% in 1998 to 27% of the school-leaving age group in 2003. This compares to an average participation rate for the whole of Dublin of 45% and with the exceptionally high participation rate of areas such as Rathmines in Dublin 6 at 71%.
However, it is clear that while there is welcome improvement, some counties and districts have admission rates below the national average and it is here that we need to continue to focus our efforts. A full study of access in 2004, being carried out on behalf of the HEA and scheduled for publication later this year, will give a more comprehensive review of both the social background of new entrants and trends in admission by county or postal district of origin. The report to which the Deputy refers has been brought to the attention of the national office for equity of access.
Efforts continue to focus on raising participation in Finglas and surrounding areas through access initiatives such as the north Dublin access, NDA, programme and the Ballymun into third level education, BITE, initiative which have seen more than a decade of collaboration between Dublin City University and northside, Finglas/Cabra and Ballymun area partnerships. This network has developed close links with students in 26 primary and 16 secondary schools in the area. The range of activities and initiatives include school and campus visits; including summer camps, extra tuition; peer mentoring; and additional third level places and a scholarship programme, all of which support and encourage more young people to access and participate in higher education.
Students are also being encouraged and supported in making the choice to participate in higher education by improvements in the student maintenance grant schemes as well as the additional funding allocated through the third level access fund, which in 2004 was €34 million. These measures include the awarding since 2000 of a higher or top-up level of grant to students from families on low incomes. There is also the student assistance fund, which is allocated to students in need through their higher education institution, and the millennium partnership fund, which supports the needs of students identified through area partnership and community groups.
A key area for progress identified in the action plan, published last December by the HEA and the national office for equity of access to higher education, is the development of a framework of access policies and initiatives ensuring all disadvantaged schools, areas and communities are linked to the access programmes and routes of entry of at least one higher education institution in their region. The national office is in the process of developing this framework, a key element of which will be advocating and supporting continued and closer collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders nationally, including the higher education and community sectors.
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