The education system continues to work on a two-tier basis with a higher percentage of students progressing to higher education from fee-paying schools or schools in non-disadvantaged areas. A 2013 Department of Education and Skills report found that 65.5 per cent of pupils who attended fee-paying secondary schools progressed directly to higher education as did 57.5 per cent of pupils from all-Irish schools.1 Forty-seven per cent of pupils who attended public non-fee paying schools progressed directly to higher education although there was a marked difference between progression rates for pupils from schools in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme (24.2 per cent) and non-DEIS schools (49.1 per cent).2
The DEIS Programme introduced to primary and post-primary schools in 2006/2007 aims to prioritise and address the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities.3 In 2014, there were 852 DEIS schools of which 658 are at primary level and 194 at post-primary level, benefitting almost 166,000 pupils.4 Funding for the programme in 2013 was €96.4 million, including €16 million in grants to DEIS schools.5 In 2014, the Department of Education and Skills expects to spend €99 million on the programme including grants.6 Further funding is provided to DEIS schools by the Department of Social Protection for the School Meals Programme; in addition the Department of Children and Youth Affairs funds the School Completion Programme. Evaluations of the programme have demonstrated positive results in literacy and numeracy at both primary7 and post-primary8 level although the scores are still below those of non-DEIS schools at both levels.
At post-primary level, the scores demonstrated a difference between the level of disadvantage in urban and rural schools with pupils in rural schools less susceptible to poverty and achieving better scores.9 While these results are mostly positive they indicate the need to maintain the programme in order to ensure that children from disadvantaged areas have the same opportunities to progress in the educational system as other children given that only 12 per cent of children from DEIS schools go onto third-level education.10
Despite the enactment of legislation in 2004,11 because parts of it remain unimplemented, children with special educational needs cannot yet avail of individual needs assessments, individual education plans or delivery of specific services in order to fulfil their right to education.12 Although it made a commitment to publish an updated implementation plan in 2011,13 following advice from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) that an additional annual investment of €235 million would be required, it is unlikely that the Government will act on its commitment in the short to medium term.14
The NCSE has made it clear that the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN)Act 2004 should be implemented in full to effectively assess and plan for children as soon as resources are available.15 In 2013, more than 22,000 children with a disability attending a mainstream school benefitted from the assistance of 10,580 Special Needs Assistants who provided them with care at school and more than 11,000 Resource Teachers were allocated to schools.16 However, a two-tier system of assessment for support resources clearly operates creating an inequality between children whose school or parents can afford to pay for private assessments and those who cannot.17
Approximately ten per cent of primary school children and 12 per cent of post-primary school children in Ireland have a migrant background as noted by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance which in highlighting the potential need for additional language support for the 75 per cent of these children who have a first language other than English.18
In the 2011/2012 academic year, €69 million was allocated to English as an Additional Language Support (EAL) teachers but since 2012/2013 the General Allocation Model combines resources for special needs education and language support so it is impossible to provide a breakdown of current funding for the initiative.19
This decision was made regardless of the National Intercultural Education Strategy published in 2010 which makes it clear that €100 million is required to implement the English language supports in addition to the ‘regular educational resources’.20 English language support had already been cut by 19 per cent in 2012 despite these children receiving the lowest scores in reading.21
According to a survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office on behalf of the OECD, 18 per cent of people aged between 16 and 65 years were rated at the lowest end of a five point literacy scale22 while 25 per cent scored below this first level on a numeracy scale.23 Research conducted in 2012 found that age, education and good health all played a part in people experiencing literacy or numeracy problems and despite difficulties in accessing the labour market, they were not more likely to be participating in a National Employment Action Plan programme. However, when they did receive training they were much more likely to benefit from the measure and exit unemployment.24 The Back to Education Allowance, an important social security payment to support long-term unemployed individuals, lone parents or persons with disabilities to re-enter education or retrain has been subject to funding cuts with a six per cent reduction to the overall budget in 2013 resulting in 765 less recipients in 2013 with 62 per cent of all recipients being men.25
FLAC urges the Committee to recommend that the State:
Develop a long-term strategy to address educational disadvantage and ensure it is adequately resourced.
Publish and begin action on the plan to fully implement the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN)Act 2004 and reform the support allocation model to bring an end to exclusionary practices.
Ensure that migrant children, for whom English is not their first language, receive appropriate language supports to assist with any educational difficulties they may encounter.
1 Department of Education and Skills (2013) School Completers – What’s Next? Report on School Completers from Post-Primary Schools – pupils enrolled in 2009/2010 and not in 2010/2011 May 2013, Dublin: Department of Education and Skills, p.12.
2 Department of Education and Skills (2013) School Completers – What’s Next? Report on School Completers from Post-Primary Schools – pupils enrolled in 2009/2010 and not in 2010/2011 May 2013, Dublin: Department of Education and Skills, p.12.
3 Department of Education and Science (2005) DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools): An Action Plan for Educational
Inclusion, Dublin: Department of Education and Science.
4 Department of Education and Skills, ‘Minister Quinn welcomes further positive research findings on DEIS schools at second level’, [press release], 15 May 2014.
5 Department of Education and Skills, ‘Minister Quinn welcomes further positive research findings on DEIS schools at second level’, [press release], 15 May 2014.
6 Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, Parliamentary Questions: Written Answers, [15517/14], 2 April 2014.
7 S. Weir and S. Denner (2013) The evaluation of the school support programme under DEIS: changes in pupil achievement in urban primary schools between 2007 and 2013, Dublin: Educational Research Centre.
8 S. Weir and D. Errity (2014) Addressing disadvantage: What have we learned from the evaluation of DEIS in urban primary schools? Presentation available online at: http://bit.ly/DEISevaluation [accessed 28 July 2014].
10 J. Humphreys, ‘Some 99% of Dublin 6 students go on to third-level’, Irish Times, 20 August 2014.
11 The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004.
12 For further information see Children’s Rights Alliance (2014) Report Card 2014, Dublin: Children’s Rights Alliance, pp.32-37.
13 Government of Ireland (2011) Programme for Government 2011-2016, Dublin: Stationery Office, p.12.
14 Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, Parliamentary Questions: Written Answers, [19162/11], 7 July 2011.
15 National Council for Special Education (2013) Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools: NCSE Policy Advice Paper No. 4, Trim: NCSE, p.vii.
16 Children’s Rights Alliance (2014) Report Card 2014, Dublin: Children’s Rights Alliance, pp.35-36.
17 Children’s Rights Alliance (2014) Report Card 2014, Dublin: Children’s Rights Alliance, p.36.
18 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (2013) ECRI Report on Ireland (fourth monitoring cycle), Strasbourg: Council of Europe, p.23.
19 F. McGinnity, E. Quinn, G. Kingston and P. O’Connell (2014) Annual Monitoring Report on Integration 2013, Dublin: ESRI & the Integration Centre, p.34.
20 Department of Education and Skills & Office of the Minister for Integration (2010) Intercultural Education Strategy 2010-2015, Dublin: Department of Education and Skills & Office of the Minister for Integration, Introduction.
21 F. McGinnity, E. Quinn, G. Kingston and P. O’Connell (2013) Annual Monitoring Report on Integration 2012, Dublin: ESRI & The Integration Centre, p.1.
22 Central Statistics Office (2013) PIAAC 2012: Survey Results for Ireland from the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, Dublin: Stationery Office, p.3.
23 Central Statistics Office (2013) PIAAC 2012: Survey Results for Ireland from the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, Dublin: Stationery Office, p.5.
24 E. Kelly, S. McGuinness and P.O’Connell (2012) Literacy, Numeracy and Activation among the Unemployed: Research Series Number 25, Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute & the National Adult Literacy Association, p.xiii.
25 Department of Social Protection (2014) Statistical information on Social Welfare Services 2013, Dublin: DSP, pp.15, 18 and 21.
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