Schools may lose Deis funds in reforms

Allocation of Government funds could see Deis funding dropped

Some schools may lose extra staff or funding they have had for the past decade under Government reforms of how supports for disadvantage are allocated.

While around 80 schools will be added to the School Support Programme (SSP) under the new Deis (Delivering Equality of opportunity In Schools) plan, some of the 826 schools included could be dropped.

The changes are to be based on a new system being used by the Department of Education to identify which schools cater for the highest proportions of disadvantaged students.

It has uncovered dozens of schools that are not in Deis have disadvantage levels among their students higher than those schools that have been in the SSP since it was established in 2006.

Around 30 schools already included in the programme may also get extra support, due to a higher concentration of less well-off students than a decade ago.

While those 110 schools will get extra resources from September, the Deis plan, to be launched by Education Minister Richard Bruton today, also points to population changes which are affecting the social profile of schools.

A spokesman for the minister said no Deis schools would be immediately affected by any phasing out of supports. However, this could change on foot of refinements to the ways schools are identified and a review of the new allocation system in its first year of operation.

“In the event that this further analysis concludes that the level of disadvantage within some schools inside Deis is less than that of some schools outside of Deis, this would have to be considered in the context of finite resources,” said the spokesman.

In making any such decisions, Mr Bruton will be mindful of the public and political opposition that former minister Ruairi Quinn faced on plans in 2012 to remove extra supports that pre-dated Deis, which forced him to cancel those.

Schools have been told recently that they will not lose special education resources for at least the first two years of a new system to allocate extra staff in that area from later this year.

The final list of schools to be included in the Deis support programme in September will be published by the end of March, but more likely in the next few weeks.

An extra €15m a year has been committed to the expansion of the SSP, but it is intended that the increased annual €112m budget will be better targeted. In future years, possibly from September 2018, different levels of support will be allocated to reflect the precise levels of disadvantage among the student body of different schools.

The current system differentiates between urban and primary schools for supports offered.

For example, only the most disadvantaged urban primary schools are given extra teachers to facilitate smaller infant classes, but all primary schools get extra funding for day-to-day costs, book schemes, and access to programmes aimed at improving literacy and numeracy, increased interaction with parents, and priority for school meals and other supports.

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