Two rural schools qualify for urban support programme

Two rural primary schools have been selected to receive the highest level of disadvantage supports reserved only for urban schools in a new Government plan.

The Co Donegal schools are on a list of 79 primary and second-level schools which Education Minister Richard Bruton said on Monday are being included in his department’s educational disadvantage programme.

The expansion of Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) is based on additional sources of data to those used in 2006 when more than 800 schools were first identified for extra funding and access to a range of supports. Only those schools with the highest concentrations of disadvantage have been added for now, after comparing individual address data for pupils at each school in the country with a deprivation index using Census 2011 information.

The highest level of support for primary schools is given to those classified as Deis Urban Band 1, meaning they qualify for extra teachers to allow smaller infant classes to be provided. The two Donegal schools are among 15 included in Deis for the first time and added to the Urban Band 1 category, with schools selected based on the electoral divisions where they are located rather than their pupils’ addresses.

Scoil Naomh Iosaf in Ballymagan is 8km from Buncrana and Kilbarron National School is 6 km from Ballyshannon. However, the Department of Education explained they are located in electoral divisions classified by the CSO as urban.

It is understood that further schools may be told they will be in Deis from September, but a Department of Education spokesperson would not comment on that prospect. Officials are more likely, however, to await an updated deprivation index based on Census 2016 data likely to be made available in early summer.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne said there should be an appeal process for schools excluded from Deis. He accepted that departmental and Central Statistics Office data were used to select schools, but said the process has been shrouded in secrecy with no details about the precise criteria used.

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