The DEIS Programme is my Department's main policy instrument to tackle educational disadvantage. In the 2019/20 academic year the DEIS Programme is available in 891 schools serving over 190,000 students. My Department will invest approximately €125 million this year on the programme and this includes the provision of enhanced school book grants to all DEIS Schools, enhanced staffing in DEIS Band 1 Primary Schools, enhanced allocation for dedicated career guidance counsellor in DEIS Post-Primary schools and enhanced National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) allocation time and the payment of a DEIS Grant to all DEIS schools. In addition all DEIS Urban Primary and DEIS Post Primary schools are included in the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Scheme. The scheme is delivered by 415 full-time HSCL Coordinators who are teachers in these schools and assigned to HSCL duties either in individual schools or clusters of schools, catering for approximately 156,000 pupils. Responding to specific actions in the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS) and DEIS Plan 2017, my Department has committed to the assignment of 4 HSCLs, as part of a 2 Year Pilot Programme commencing in the 2019/20 school year in 4 areas to target attendance, participation and retention/school completion for Traveller and Roma pupils.
You may be aware that at the request of my Department, the Educational Research Centre (ERC) has conducted an independent evaluation of the School Support Programme (SSP) component of DEIS in urban and rural primary schools and in post-primary schools. Like the DEIS programme itself, the evaluation is multifaceted, and is attempting to monitor the implementation of the programme and assess its impact on students, families and schools. The evaluation reports are published on the ERC’s website at: http://www.erc.ie/studies/deis/
The latest report on the evaluation of the DEIS programme by the ERC, The Evaluation of DEIS at Post-Primary Level: Closing the Achievement and Attainment Gaps, was published in January 2019. It shows that the achievement and attainment gaps between DEIS and non-DEIS post-primary schools continue to narrow, both in terms of performance at Junior Certificate level and retention rates. It is also encouraging to see a rise in the percentage of students in DEIS schools taking English and Mathematics at Higher Level.
The findings from the latest evaluation report supports the rationale to continue to target resources at schools with concentrations of students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds. It is important to continue to implement the 108 Actions of DEIS Plan 2017 to address the needs of our most marginalised students. One example of an action we are taking to narrow the gap between DEIS and Non-DEIS is the School Excellence Fund (SEF)-DEIS. SEF-DEIS enables schools to apply for funding to implement innovative programmes which are context specific and are aimed at improving educational outcomes. At the end of May I announced Tranche 3 of SEF-DEIS and the closing date for receipt of applications has recently been extended to 31 October. Further details on how to apply are available on my Department’s website at: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/DEIS-Delivering-Equality-of-Opportunity-in-Schools-/school-excellence-fund/school-excellence-fund.html