Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Schools.
Mr. S. Brennan
Minister for Education
if she will define the term disadvantaged school in regard to her decision on targeting her Department's resources to such schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Eric J. ByrneCeist:
Mr. E. Byrne
Minister for Education
the criteria used for assessing or declaring a school as disadvantaged; the additional resources, if any, which are made available to schools classified as disadvantaged; if this classification is available to first and second-level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 428 and 442 together.
Schools are targeted for special supports under the disadvantaged areas schemes on the basis of their having high concentrations of children who are at risk of not reaching their potential in the education system because of their soci-economic background.
Traditionally, primary schools have been selected for support by reference to a range of socio-economic criteria which were agreed some years ago between my Department, school managerial authorities and the INTO. The criteria in question took into account such factors as the incidence of unemployment, medical card holding and local authority housing occupancy, among the parents of children attending the school.
Schools securing disadvantaged status are allocated a special supplementary capitation allowance. The staffing allocation made to each school is set at a level which enables the school authorities to ensure that no class will have more than 29 pupils. Prior to 1994, the schools in question also received a concessionary teaching post.
For the current school year, the schools in the scheme will receive a supplementary capitation payment amounting to £30 per pupil.
In addition, each school is entitled to the following supports: refund of television licence fee, 95 per cent building grant, grants to provide aid for school books for needy pupils, specifically to aid in the establishment of loan-rental schemes and grants to assist certain schools experiencing current financial difficulties. In addition, schools with an enrolment of 200 or more may also receive a grant of £15 per pupil in respect of clerical-caretaking services, subject to a maximum of 500 pupils.
A total of 309 primary schools involving 81,000 pupils are currently covered by the disadvantaged areas scheme, 179 of these schools also benefit from inclusion in the home school community liaison scheme.
Arising from studies carried out by the Combat Poverty Agency and the Education Research Centre, I recently launched an important new initiative which seeks to break the cycle of educational disadvantage in selected urban and rural areas.
Under this initiative, a new targeted programme of supports is being made available to 25 selected schools in large urban areas of particular disadvantage and also a further eight associated schools which serve the same general populations and which have been included in this initiative to ensure consistency and continuity of support for the families in question. In addition to continuing to receive the supports referred to above, these schools are being allocated additional teaching staff to significantly reduce pupil numbers in junior classes. A curriculum co-ordinator has been appointed to oversee the programme in the selected urban schools.
Also as part of the initiative, 25 clusters of small schools and particularly those in rural areas which have high levels of disadvantage are being selected to receive a targeted programme of supports. Schools from all parts of the country with fewer than five teachers were eligible to apply for inclusion in this element of the initiative. A co-ordinator will be appointed to serve each cluster in this initiative. I expect to be in a position to announce shortly the names of the schools selected.
With regard to the second level sector, criteria similar to those at primary level were used to select the schools for support. These criteria were agreed between my Department, the managerial authorities and the teacher unions at second level and parents.
At present 190 second level schools are designated as disadvantaged. These schools are allocated an additional exquota teaching post and 84 of the schools also avail of the home school community liaison scheme. An additional £30 capitation grant, in addition to the standardper capita grant, was introduced in 1994 for schools which were designated as disadvantaged. This brings the total capitation funding for second level schools designated as disadvantaged to £207 per pupil in 1996.