Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) is the main policy initiative of my Department to address educational disadvantage at school level. In order to tackle educational disadvantage, the DEIS programme provides for smaller class sizes and other supports including additional teaching posts, Home School Community Liaison Coordinators, DEIS grants, enhanced book grants, curriculum supports, priority access to Continuing Professional Development and the School Excellence Fund for DEIS. Evidence from the evaluations of the DEIS programme to date demonstrate that it is having a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage.
The rationale for allocating resources and supports based on a schools’ level of concentrated disadvantage is based on the existence of a ‘multiplier effect’, whereby students attending a school with a high concentration of students from disadvantaged backgrounds have poorer academic outcomes, even taking account of individual social background. This approach is supported by national and international research and will continue to be my Departments approach to addressing educational disadvantage.
In the 2019/20 school year there are 891 schools in the DEIS Programme serving in excess of 185,000 pupils. This represents approximately 20% of the overall school population. My Department will spend in the region of €125 million in 2019 on the DEIS Programme.
As the Deputy may be aware, the DEIS Plan acknowledges that 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 commits to the evaluation of the level of teaching resources for schools participating in DEIS to be undertaken to inform future policy in this area.
In order to facilitate this a Class Size Working Group was established comprising representatives from the Education Partners, the Educational Research Centre and the relevant Business Units in my Department. This group has met on a number of occasions to consider class size in the context of improved learning outcomes of those most at risk of educational disadvantage.
A report on the work of this group is currently being finalised and will take into consideration the feedback and observations of the working group members. It is intended that this will be finalised in the coming weeks and its findings will inform future policy direction in this area.