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Priority Questions - Educational Disadvantage

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

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 2.  Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  in view of his stated support of children from disadvantaged backgrounds having access to a full and inclusive education, if he will agree to implement a review of schools in the primary and post-primary sector that are currently servicing areas of high disadvantage and which fit all of the criteria of DEIS but are doubly being penalised as they are outside the current DEIS programme; and the reason some rural DEIS schools are losing concessionary teachers and do not appear to be included in the past budget review as promised by him. [19686/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn A key priority for my Department is to prioritise and target resources in schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. That challenge is significant, given the current economic climate and the target to reduce public expenditure. This limits the capacity for any additionality in the DEIS programme. In this context, I have no immediate plans to undertake the type of review to which the Deputy refers. I would, however, mention that three reports were published earlier this year regarding the operation of the DEIS programme. They included a report on the first phase of the evaluation of the DEIS programme by the Education Research Centre and two reports on the effectiveness of DEIS planning in primary and post-primary schools prepared by the inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills. I am pleased to say these evaluations demonstrated positive outcomes for both schools and individual children from the DEIS programme. DEIS rural primary schools were not within the scope of the report on the net impact of budget 2012 on DEIS urban schools. In any case, the overwhelming majority of DEIS rural primary schools were not affected by the budget 2012 proposals regarding legacy posts. Of the 328 DEIS rural primary schools, only 16 will lose one legacy post each.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe The question is in two parts. The reason I tabled the question on the review of DEIS schools is that we previously had a conversation in the House on this matter. It is not fair that many schools fit the criteria for the DEIS programme, but, unfortunately, because the scheme is not open to them, they are doubly penalised in respect of the changes introduced in the budget. It is wrong and unfair and makes life difficult for the schools across the country that are affected. The difference between urban and rural schools was not stressed when the Minister said he would reverse the cuts.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I said I would review the decision, not reverse it.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Did the Minister say he would concentrate on urban schools rather than rural schools?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn No.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe Will DEIS urban schools lose concessionary teaching posts also?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Some of them will.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe I got the impression from the Minister that he would examine schools outside the DEIS scheme. Is he now saying there is no intention to review this issue? Many of [76]the schools outside the DEIS system fit all the criteria for the DEIS programme. At the time I said it was about pulling down barriers, not putting them up. Unfortunately, some schools are being kept outside the system. We must examine such schools in the interests of fairness. I accept the difficulty the Minister faces with resources. If he had carried out a review, at least we would know the extent of the problem, which would be helpful in the debate in trying to resolve some of the issues. Perhaps I misunderstood his intentions on DEIS rural schools, but the changes are affecting them. The loss of teachers in disadvantaged schools will have a major impact. Many people, including me, were under the impression that teachers in these schools would be safeguarded while the review was ongoing.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The removal of legacy posts was intended to deal with cases in which there were two DEIS schools in a particular area or half a dozen DEIS schools in a particular area of disadvantage where it was possible to have two schools in the same socioeconomic grouping and locality, typically in the Deputy’s constituency or the inner city part of my constituency, and one school would have more resources than the other simply because it had persuaded previous Ministers to leave intact the original relatively arbitrary measures introduced without a scientific analysis and basis and managed to hold on to the new resources coming to them. For historical reasons — prior to the introduction of the DEIS programme which, from memory, was introduced in 2004 or thereabouts and on the basis of scientific criteria and a rational basis by the Department in both urban and rural areas — certain individual schools in areas of disadvantage, for whatever reasons — there were no standard criteria, as such — were included in different programmes at different times. All that we ever targeted were the legacy or additional posts. They are being reduced in some cases. In others, because of the nature and scale of the schools involved, they are being left intact.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe One cannot fix a problem until one knows its extent. The message I am getting from many schools is that the cuts are doubly unfair, given that they are outside the DEIS club. I thought the matter of legacy posts had been resolved following the climbdown or review that was promised. All of us in the House accept that the DEIS programme is working. Why wreck a system when that is the case in order to remove legacy posts? Schools are dealing with major problems of disadvantage. The figures from the Department indicate that the DEIS programme is working in terms of the outcomes achieved whereby children move on to further education. The literacy and numeracy strategy is a key component of the approach required. The outcomes for DEIS schools are much more positive than they had been. If the Minister takes away the resources, we will be pulling down the house that has been built.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I understand and share the Deputy’s concerns about DEIS schools, but he is probably aware — as I am — that 60% of young people coming from disadvantaged homes are not being schooled in DEIS schools. There is not a ghettoisation or concentration of disadvantage in DEIS schools, although it is self-evident that there are large concentrations of disadvantage in such schools. However, that is not the full story and I must have regard to the entire picture.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt As Deputy Seamus Healy is not present, we will leave Question No. 3 and move to Question No. 4.

Question No. 3 lapsed.

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