Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (235)

John Curran

Question:

235. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional resources and steps he is taking to close a gap (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53258/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The DEIS Programme is my Department's main policy instrument to tackle educational disadvantage. To realise our vision for education to more fully become a proven pathway to better opportunities for those in communities at risk of disadvantage and social exclusion, we have set a target in DEIS Plan to continue to improve leaving certificate retention rates in DEIS schools from their current rate of 85% to the national norm, currently 91.6%, by 2025 (Retention rates of pupils in second-level schools Entry cohort 2011, published by my Department).

Improvement in DEIS schools’ retention rates in recent years has been significantly higher than the overall improvement nationally. My Department’s publication,  Retention Rates of Pupils in Second Level Schools 2011 Entry Cohort,  (those who entered post-primary in September 2011 and completed Leaving Certificate in 2016 or 2017) shows the Leaving Certificate retention rate for DEIS schools is 85%.  As the Deputy has pointed out the retention rates for non-DEIS schools is 93.5%, an 8.5% gap.  The Leaving Certificate retention rate for the 2006 entry cohort for DEIS schools was 80.1% compared to 92.7% for non-DEIS schools. In the five years from 2006 to 2011 the leaving certificate retention gap between DEIS and Non-DEIS has dropped from 12.6% to 8.5%.

My Department will invest approximately €125 million in the current school year on the DEIS programme and this includes the provision of enhanced school book grants to DEIS Schools, enhanced staffing in DEIS Band 1 Primary Schools, enhanced allocation for dedicated career guidance counsellor in DEIS Post-Primary schools, 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. Additional funding is provided from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the School Meals Programme and from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for the School Completion Programme. 

Retention Rates to Leaving Certificate are one aspect of the overall evaluation of the programme. The Deputy will be aware the findings from PISA 2018 were published in early December and show that students in Ireland scored higher than the OECD average in reading, mathematics and science. 

Since DEIS was first introduced, the Educational Research Centre (ERC) and my Department’s Inspectorate have conducted a series of evaluations on aspects of the programme and findings of this work are contained in a series of published reports. Evidence from this research to date demonstrates that the DEIS programme is having a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage and is succeeding in improving educational outcomes.