The government is "in the middle of a review" of its Deis support scheme with a view to potentially extending it to include more schools.
Education & Skills Minister Joe McHugh said he is discussing the extension of the Department of Education’s DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme with Cabinet colleagues.
He said an audit has been undertaken and that any potential extensions will be dependent on the availability of resources.
His comments came just a few weeks after a study revealed the extent of the gap in higher education access. The Higher Education Authority study confirmed that one-fifth of students come from affluent backgrounds. It revealed that just 5% of students at UCC and UCD come from disadvantaged backgrounds and that just 10% of third level students are defined as disadvantaged in comparison to 15% of second-level students.
"We invest very heavily in disadvantage. We have targeted interventions through our Deis programme, over €200 million, and the statistics are pointing quite clearly that the progression to third level, apprenticeships and different pathways improves once those supports are there," Mr McHugh said.
"I'm actually in a conversation at the moment with my colleagues within the party to see how we could enhance that particular intervention. And I know there's a lot of schools that don't come under the Deis banner that would like to get into it. We're in the middle of a review, but that will require decisions around resources."
He said they are "in the middle of a review" and once this process is complete, a decision will be made on the future of the scheme, which was established in 2005 to address educational disadvantage.
Mr McHugh was discussing the matter at Terence MacSwiney Community College in Knocknaheeny. He visited the school, as well as the nearby Apple campus, to observe the work of the Apple school engagement programme which sees schools receive lessons in coding, photography, art and music.
The event coincided with a transition year visit attended by 100 students from Ballincollig Community School and Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG schools in Cork who were at the campus to learn about Apple’s operations in Ireland and experience Everyone Can Create and Everyone Can Code taster sessions. These sessions are designed to help students of all ages to learn the basics of coding and problem-solving.
To date, almost 1,000 students from local schools have already taken part in transition year visits to learn about Apple’s operations in Ireland.