Even the most determined society struggles to eradicate the kind of disadvantage that condemns people, from a very young age and through no fault of their own, to a life where hardship is the dominant theme.
Despite a considerable commitment to changing this harsh reality, disadvantage persists as a decisive force in far too many lives.
Education Minister Richard Bruton has announced an extension of the measures designed to tackle disadvantage in our schools and a 15% increase in budgets to achieve that objective but, almost inevitably, this has been described as inadequate.
The general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Sheila Nunan, points out that the 15% increase does not go anywhere near restoring cuts imposed on disadvantaged schools in recent years. She also said there is an increase in administrative obligations but that no extra resources were provided to deliver that objective.
The Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (Deis) scheme supports programmes in 641 primary schools and 185 second-level schools. Funding has been increased to €112m.
In an ideal world, the funds available to confront disadvantage would be almost limitless but, sadly, our world does not work like that. Yesterday’s announcement included details of 15 primary schools in Cavan, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Laois, Longford, and Tipperary that will get the highest level of support, including extra teachers.
In a world where work and life patterns have changed radically, it is sometimes difficult to convince a person — even one living a life where disadvantage is unknown — that a commitment to education can solve a lot of life’s problems.
Those involved in Deis schemes know that better than most and hopefully, they will see yesterday’s package as a stepping stone rather than a conclusion.
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