A key objective of Traveller education policy in recent years has been the phasing out of segregated Traveller provision and the inclusion of Traveller children and young people in mainstream education. Funding for segregated Traveller provision has been incorporated into overall school and other funding streams in order to provide supports for Traveller pupils in mainstream schools. Such supports include:
- Investment of some €125 million in my Department's DEIS Programme for educational inclusion providing 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. Traveller pupils are included for the purposes of determining the level of mainstream teaching staff in the relevant DEIS schools.
- A new model for allocating Special Education Teachers introduced for mainstream schools which provides a single allocation for special educational supports to teaching needs for schools, based on each school’s educational profile. The model establishes a school’s educational profile, which includes traveller children, enrolled in a school under the following strands:
- The number of students with complex special educational needs
- The social context of school which includes gender, primary school location and educational disadvantage. For primary schools, the social context survey asked schools to the number of pupils from a Traveller family as one component of the social context survey. For post primary schools, social context was based on the number of pupils who had exam fee exemptions, including Traveller pupils.
- Percentages of students performing below a certain threshold on standardised test results. This includes schools with pupils from the Traveller and Roma community who may be attaining lower standardised test scores. The allocation is based on the learning need evidenced by the test score result as opposed to by the cultural identifier in accordance with mainstream policy.
My Department currently spends approximately €1.9 billion or almost 20% of its total educational budget annually on making additional provision for children with special educational needs. This represents an increase of over 50% in total expenditure since 2011, at which point €1.247 billion per annum was provided. Enhanced pupil capitation is also paid for Traveller pupils.
My Department is committed to improving educational outcomes for Traveller and Roma learners at all levels, through the implementation of the education actions of NTRIS. Responding to specific actions in the NTRIS and the DEIS Plan, a Two Year Pilot Programme to target attendance, participation and retention/school completion has been established in four specific Traveller and Roma Communities. Partners in the project include Tusla Education Support Services (TESS), Department of Education and Skills, Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration and Traveller and Roma representatives. Each pilot area is being provided with an additional Educational Welfare Officer (EWO) and Home School Liaison Coordinator (HSCL) and two additional Traveller/Roma Education Workers. It is intended that the pilot will inform future policy in the area of Traveller and Roma education.