€1.8m schools programme to tackle educational disadvantage

Over 35 schools, including at least eight in Munster, are to explore new ways to tackle educational disadvantage and improve student’s learning ability.

Education and Skills Minister, Richard Bruton, will announce today that €1.8m is being provided for the innovative programme.

He is expected to launch the pilot phase of the School Excellent Fund in one of the participating schools — St Vincent’s Girls National school in North William Street, Dublin.

Ten clusters that include urban and rural, pre-school, primary and post-primary schools have been invited to take part in the programme’s pilot phase.

Every cluster has to have at least one school that is part of the social inclusion strategy — Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools.

Because the list is not entirely finalised, all of the schools taking part in the pilot phase have not been named yet.

The fund will allow schools to trial creative interventions over three years, with successful approaches shared across the school sector.

Some of the projects envisaged are likely to be aimed at improving outcomes for students for whom English is an additional language.

Also likely to be explored are ways of improving oral language in pre-school and infant classes and improving student’s wellbeing through the Arts.

It is envisaged that schools will establish a cross-sectoral approach to the development of mathematical skills and science teaching. Other projects will focus on ensuring higher-ability students attain their goals and on improving pupil transitions and parental involvement.

In Cork City, primary and post-primary schools are working on the development of students’ computational thinking skills, with a focus on mathematics.

A cluster of primary a nd post-primary schools in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, plans to develop oral literacy in a cross-sectoral way to build confidence in young people as they move from primary to post-primary education. Schools in Rathangan, Co Kildare, plan to develop a consistent approach to the teaching of mathematics to facilitate a smooth transition of pupils to second level.

Mr Bruton wants to make Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe by 2026 and the fund in one of a number of initiatives he has taken to ensure every child has access to opportunities to fulfil their life aspirations.

The minister launched an updated Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools plan earlier this year, expanding supports to new schools for the first time since 2009. A total of 79 new schools have been included, and 30 are getting a higher level of support since September.

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