Thursday, 23 March 2006

Questions (199)

Richard Bruton

Question:

199 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5 has been designated in band two disadvantage while the school adjoining is in band one despite the latter having a somewhat lower level of children from families with features of disadvantage; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that as a consequence the school is likely to lose one of its learning support teachers and as a result will have to abandon the three year infant programme, reading, recovery and first steps. [11514/06]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP. The process of identifying primary and second level schools for participation in the new school support programme has been completed.

This process was managed by the Educational Research Centre, ERC, on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through my Department's regional offices and the inspectorate. In the primary sector, the identification process was based on a survey carried out by the ERC in May 2005, from which a response rate of more than 97% was achieved.

The analysis of the survey returns from primary schools by the ERC identified the socioeconomic variables that collectively best predict achievement, and these variables were then used to identify schools for participation in the school support programme. The variables involved were: unemployment; local authority accommodation; lone parenthood; Travellers; large families — five or more children; and pupils eligible for free books.

As a result of the identification process, 840 schools have been invited to participate in the new school support programme, which comprise 640 primary schools — 320 urban-town schools and 320 rural schools — and 200 second level schools. Letters of invitation were issued to all 840 schools in late February with a request to complete and return an acceptance form by 10 March 2006. A completed acceptance form has been received from the school to which the Deputy refers.

The 320 urban-town primary schools in the school support programme have been categorised into two bands as follows, that is, band 1 includes the first 180 urban-town primary schools identified for inclusion in the programme and band 2 includes the next 140 urban-town primary schools.

A review mechanism has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the school support programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. This mechanism can also address the concerns of primary schools identified for inclusion in band 2 but that regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in band 1.

The review process will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The school to which the Deputy refers has requested a review and a review form issued to the school on 13 March 2006. The closing date for receipt of review applications is Friday, 31 March 2006.

Officials from my Department will contact the school authority directly to discuss the learning support-resource teacher staffing for the coming school year.