Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme (SSP). DEIS brings together and builds upon a number of existing interventions in schools with concentrated levels of disadvantage.
There are currently 876 schools in DEIS, 673 primary (of which 333 are rural) and 203 post primary. The indicators used in the primary schools identification process took account of the differences between urban and rural disadvantage. The following supports are available to rural primary schools in DEIS: additional non-pay/capitation allocation based on level of disadvantage; financial allocation under the School Books Grant Scheme; access to the School Meals Programme; access to teacher/co-ordinator serving a cluster of primary schools and whose functions include the development of home, school and community linkages; supporting implementation of literacy and numeracy measures, planning supports etc.; financial support as an alternative to teacher/co-ordinator support where a school cannot be clustered; and access to planning supports.
571. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has had discussions with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs in relation to funding disadvantaged pupils requiring support for the purchase of school books in the 2009/2010 school year; and to make a statement on the progress of those talks. [10101/09]
As a result of changes in Budget 2009, the book grant is now available only to schools within the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme. By limiting the school book grant to schools within the DEIS scheme, savings of €7.5m will be achieved.
DEIS is the action plan for educational inclusion and focuses on addressing the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities. Approximately €7 million was made available in 2008 to DEIS schools at primary and post-primary level for the school book grant scheme; this fund of €7 million will be made available for distribution to schools in the DEIS programme in 2009.
My Department continues to urge schools to implement book rental schemes as a measure to minimise the cost of school books to all parents. This was the recommendation of a consultancy report, submitted to my Department in 1993, which dealt with the factors which contribute to the cost of school text books. The report, copies of which were sent to all schools, contains a number of useful suggestions, including a Code of Good Practice for successful operation of book rental schemes. My Department fully endorses the report’s recommendations.
572. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on a whole-school evaluation for schools (details supplied) in County Mayo and in particular his views on the home school liaison position. [10102/09]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): Whole-school evaluations (WSE) were conducted in the schools referred to by the Deputy during 2008 and the evaluation reports have been published and can be accessed by the public on my Department’s website www.education.ie. While the effectiveness of Home School Community Liaison that have operated in the schools has been acknowledged in the published WSE reports, the two post primary schools are among a number of schools that were judged by an independent identification process in 2005 not to have a sufficient level of disadvantage among their pupils to warrant their inclusion in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion. The next identification process is scheduled to be held at the end of the current DEIS programme which runs from 2005 to 2010.
A review mechanism was put in place in 2006 to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in DEIS but regarded themselves as having a level of disadvantage which was of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. The review process operated under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The review was concluded and the results were notified to schools in August 2006. The post primary schools in question appealed their non inclusion in DEIS. Both their appeals were unsuccessful.
Following the introduction of DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools), a commitment was given, as a concessionary measure, to Non DEIS schools in receipt of resources under pre-existing schemes, including the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) service, that they would retain a level of support in line with their size and disadvantage levels for the duration of the DEIS Initiative.
Given the current volatile and challenging economic climate, difficult choices had to be made in order to contain public sector spending. One of these decisions is the withdrawal of the HSCL services from all Non DEIS schools with effect from September 2009. The two post primary schools mentioned by the Deputy will lose their HSCL services at the end of the current school year.
The main focus of Social Inclusion measures will be to retain resources in DEIS schools. There is a need to focus targeted resources on the schools in most need and this approach is in line with the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Comptroller and Auditor General which are set out in his report on Primary Disadvantage of 2006, which recommended that my Department should focus its educational disadvantage measures on those schools serving the most disadvantaged communities.
573. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Science the work that is being done in his Department in advance of the review of DEIS in 2010; if consideration has been given to the selection process that will be involved; and if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of those involved in the previous process. [10103/09]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): As the Deputy is aware, the next identification process for disadvantaged schools is due to take place at the end of the current DEIS programme which is 2010. A Steering group has already been established within my Department and work has commenced work in examining the socio-economic and other variables that collectively best predict achievement. The Group will be taking into account concerns raised in relation to the previous identification process and will consider the most effective and efficient methods of data collection.
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