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Minister Foley announces new measures to tackle educational disadvantage

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today (Monday 1 March) announced further supports to those schools catering for children and young people who are experiencing the highest levels of educational disadvantage. As part of the Budget 2021 measures to tackle educational disadvantage, the Minister announced:

  • A one-point reduction in the staffing schedule to reduce class-size in all DEIS Urban Band 1 primary schools.
  • An extension of the School Completion Programme to include 14 urban primary and 14 post-primary schools newly included in DEIS in 2017.
  • A 5% increase in funding for the School Completion Programme to support the attendance and participation of vulnerable learners and those at risk of education disadvantage.
  • A reduction of the enrolment threshold for the allocation of an additional deputy principal in DEIS post-primary schools, from 700 to 600 pupils.

Minister Foley said: “I am delighted to be able to announce this range of supports, aimed at tackling educational disadvantage and assisting those students with the highest levels of need to help them reach their potential. My Department will spend over €150m on tackling educational disadvantage this year.

“It is vital that DEIS schools catering for those students from lower socio-economic backgrounds receive continued support, particularly in light of the need to provide assistance to students who have missed out on learning opportunities as a result of Covid-19 school closures.

“While there has been a reduction in mainstream class size in recent years, there has not been a corresponding reduction for those Urban Band 1 DEIS schools.

“As an initial step in addressing this, I announced a one-point reduction for Senior Urban Band 1 schools from 24:1 to 23:1.

“Following further consideration, it is clear to me that a lower class size, particularly in junior classes, in those schools with the highest concentrations of educational disadvantage can improve overall learning outcomes. Therefore, I am pleased to announce a one-point reduction to the staffing schedule as it applies to all Urban Band 1 DEIS primary schools.

“In recognition of the additional pressures faced by principals in DEIS post-primary schools, I am also happy to announce a reduction in the threshold for the allocation of a second deputy principal posts for these schools. This will provide additional leadership and management support for those DEIS schools with more than 600 students.

“The School Completion Programme, as one of the three support strands of the Tusla Education Support Service, is one of the key supports in terms of supporting retention and attendance of learners. It is particularly important given the need to support students who have missed out on learning opportunities as a result of Covid-19 school closures and of that increased risk leading to student disengagement and early school leaving.

“Those schools new to DEIS in 2017 which would ordinarily have been eligible for SCP, were not offered access to the programme at that time and I am now in a position to address this. I will be providing additional annual funding of almost €2.3 million to the School Completion Programme, to fund the extension of the programme to these schools and provide a 5% increase in the overall budget.

“The Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop an inclusive vision for education. These additional supports will assist students most at risk of educational disadvantage by enhancing opportunities for participation and retention in education thus allowing our young people to fulfil their potential.”

Notes for the Editor

Urban Band 1 class size reduction

A one-point reduction of class size, from 24:1 to 23:1, in Urban Band 1 senior schools (primary schools with senior cycle classes) was already announced as an initial step last October. This announcement reduces class size from 22:1 to 21:1 in Urban Band 1 vertical schools ( all classes) and 20:1 to 19:1 in Urban Band 1 junior schools (junior infants-second class). Budget 2021 included a general reduction in the mainstream staffing schedule to 25:1. While there has been a reduction in mainstream class size in recent years, there has not been a corresponding reduction for those Urban Band 1 DEIS schools that are already allocated a preferential staffing schedule. The reduction of class size in all Urban Band 1 schools is estimated to require an additional 50 teaching posts and have a full year cost in the region of €2.45 million.

The DEIS plan acknowledges the allocation of teaching resources to DEIS primary schools with the highest concentrations of children at risk of educational disadvantage has served to improve learning outcomes. It also committed to the evaluation of the level of teaching resources for schools participating in DEIS to be undertaken to inform future policy in this area. Work has been undertaken within the Department as part of the Class Size Working Group which has helped inform this policy along with all the other research that is available on the positive effects of smaller class size on those schools supporting students at risk of educational disadvantage. The report on the Review ofClass Size in DEIS Urban Band 1 Schools is attached. 

School Completion Programme

The School Completion Programme (SCP) is a central element of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) plan. The SCP was first introduced in 2002 by the Department of Education and the programme was significantly expanded in 2005 with the roll-out of supports under DEIS.

In May 2011 responsibility for the National Education Welfare Board and its services was transferred from the Minister for Education and Skills to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. In January 2014, the NEWB was disbanded and the educational welfare services of the Board transferred into the Child and Family Agency (Tusla). In line with the arrangements set out as part of the current Government formation, since January 2021 Tusla Education Support Services, including SCP is under the remit of the Minister for Education.

The SCP is a targeted school and community support service with the desired impact of the retention of a young person to completion of the leaving certificate or an equivalent qualification or suitable level of educational attainment which enables them to transition into further education, training or employment. It focuses on attendance, participation and retention.

The SCP is a core strand of the Tusla Education Support Services, fully aligned with the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) and the statutory Education Welfare strands of the EWS, which together provide an integrated and comprehensive response to child educational welfare needs to achieve improved attendance, participation and retention in school.

SCP delivers a range of local interventions in disadvantaged communities which support the retention of young people in education. The programme enables local communities to develop tailored strategies to maximise participation levels of those at risk of early school leaving in the education process. It entails targeting individual young people of school-going age, both in and out of school, and arranging supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes.

There are over 120 SCP projects supporting in the region of 470 primary and 220 post-primary schools. This will now be extended to include 14 Urban Band 1 primary schools and 14 post-primary schools included in the DEIS programme in 2017. The list of these schools is attached.

Annual programme funding for 2020 was €24.7m. This will provide an additional allocation of €2.3m to the School Completion Programme, increasing its full year budget to €27m from 2022.

The list of Urban Band 1 and post-primary schools that were new to DEIS in 2017 are available here:

Deputy Principal Allocation

The current enrolment threshold for the allocation of an additional deputy principal in all post-primary schools, including DEIS schools is 700 students. This threshold will now be reduced to 600 students for all DEIS post-primary schools.  Schools who fall into this category when the allocation process is finalised will benefit from these additional deputy principals posts for September 2021.