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Written Answers. - Breaking the Cycle Scheme.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 34. Mr. Sherlock Information on Joe Sherlock Zoom on Joe Sherlock  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  the progress made with regard to the Breaking the Cycle scheme since its introduction; the number of schools involved in the scheme in each year since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26716/02]

[1485]Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey The Breaking the Cycle pilot project was launched in 1996 and seeks to discriminate positively in favour of primary schools in selected urban and rural areas which have high concentrations of children who are at risk of not reaching their potential in the education system because of their socio-economic backgrounds. When the project was launched there were 33 schools in the urban dimension and 123 schools in the rural dimension. However, due to amalgamations and withdrawals there are now 32 designated disadvantaged schools included in the urban dimension and 120 small rural schools in the rural dimension. The 32 schools in the urban dimension are benefiting from a targeted programme of teacher and funding supports being made available. For the 120 small rural schools shared teacher and co-ordinator supports and funding supports are also made available.

It has been found, however, that Breaking the Cycle, in common with the disadvantaged areas scheme, does not take account of different levels of need. On this basis, a comprehensive survey of all primary schools was carried out by the Educational Research Centre in 2000, at the request of my Department. The purpose of the survey was to identify the level of concentration in each primary school of pupils with characteristics that are associated with educational disadvantage and early school leaving. The survey is the most comprehensive ever of the incidence of educational disadvantage in primary schools in Ireland and it provides a valuable basis for directing resources to the areas of greatest need. The survey outcome forms the basis of the new disadvantage programme, Giving Children an Even Break, a major initiative which was launched in January 2001 to tackle educational disadvantage at primary level over a three year period. Under Giving Children an Even Break, my Department's approach is refined to ensure that the individual at-risk pupils are targeted. Giving Children an Even Break subsumes the previous process of designation of schools that serve areas of educational disadvantage. In total, over 2,300 schools are now participating in the programme.

Giving Children an Even Break is a key component of my Department's strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children who are at risk of school failure or who are experiencing educational disadvantage. Schools in Giving Children an Even Break are in receipt of a range of additional supports including teacher posts and other non-teaching supports to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils. The additional supports provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate in the programme.

All schools included in the Breaking the Cycle pilot project and those that were previously designated as disadvantaged will retain the resources allocated to them under those programmes. They may also qualify for additional resources under [1486]Giving Children An Even Break, based on the level of concentration of pupils at risk. Both Breaking the Cycle and Giving Children An Even Break are being monitored to ensure that they are addressing the needs of the educationally disadvantaged pupils targeted. Where modifications are required, the necessary changes will be made to incorporate these. In addition Giving Children an Even Break will be subject to independent evaluation to ensure that the programme is meeting its objectives. The evaluation will assist in its future development and the introduction of further interventions in this area.


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