Following the submission to the Department of Education and Skills of correspondence outlining the challenges facing island schools, including the Report on Challenges Facing Island Schools published in February 2018 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills, an intra departmental working group was established within the Department to consider the matters raised. The challenges identified included matters relating to teacher allocation, the curriculum, recruitment of staff, travel and independent and DEIS status for island schools.
As a result of its deliberations, including meetings with representatives from Galway/Roscommon ETB and Donegal ETB, under whose auspices the five post-primary schools located on the islands operate, the working group recommended the provision of an additional package of supports for island post-primary schools from September 2018.
This ring-fenced package of supports for island post-primary schools, which is additional to the supports which are being provided under the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme in which all of the 5 island post-primary schools are participating, is set out in the following table.
In relation to the recruitment of teachers by island schools, as part of the overall implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022, my Department has made arrangements and provided funding for the commencement of two new Irish medium teacher education programmes to increase the supply of teachers who can deliver high quality Irish-medium education. These programmes include a 2 year part-time Irish-medium M.Ed. in Irish-medium and Gaeltacht Education, which commenced in Mary Immaculate College in September 2018 and a 4 year full-time B.Ed Irish-medium initial teacher education programme, which will commence in Marino Institute of Education from September 2019. Funding is being provided for 30 new places per annum on each of the two new programmes. In addition, provision has been made for the secondment of two teaching posts to the Irish-medium Professional Masters in Education at NUIG to work towards increasing the number of teachers who can teach a range of subjects through the medium of Irish.
Another initiative, which is being implemented under the Policy on Gaeltacht Education is the e-hub pilot project, which aims to utilise online delivery to extend the subject range available through the medium of Irish to students in isolated post-primary Gaeltacht schools, commencing with Higher Level Leaving Certificate Physics. 3 of the 5 island post-primary schools will be participating in the pilot project commencing from September 2019. This will enable students in these schools to undertake the Higher Level Leaving Certificate Physics examination in 2021.
In relation to the assignation of DEIS status to island schools, such schools are assessed on the same basis as all other schools in the country for the purposes of inclusion in the programme. This assessment is based on data in the DES Primary Online Database (POD) and Post-Primary Online (PPOD) Databases, and CSO data from the National Census of Population as represented in the Pobal HP Index for Small Areas which is a method of measuring the relative affluence or disadvantage of a particular geographical area. A detailed document explaining the methodology used in the Identification process under DEIS plan 2017 is available on my Department’s website at www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/DEIS-Identification-Process.pdf.
DEIS Plan 2017 states that the improved data on the socio-demographic of schools resulting from the new identification model will have an impact not only on the assessment of schools for inclusion in the programme but also on the scaling of resources to allow for more graduated levels of support. This is turn allows for the ultimate objective of allocating resources to best meet the identified need of individual schools.
My Department is currently undertaking data analysis in the context of resource allocation to match identified need, including the examination of variables known to be strong predictors of educational disadvantage. All schools, including Island Schools, are being considered using the new identification model. Until this analysis is complete, it is not intended to extend the DEIS programme to any further schools.