ESRI: most disadvantaged schools need more funding
Schools in the urban areas suffering the most severe socio-economic disadvantage need more funding to help level the educational playing field for their pupils, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The high levels of disadvantage and greater complexity of needs of pupils in these communities make them stand out as being deserving of greater levels of support than is offered at the moment.
The schools already get additional assistance, such as smaller classes, than any other in the Department of Education's Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme - but the ESRI suggests that it is not enough.
The findings follow a review of the experience of schools in the DEIS programme, which provides extra funding and supports to schools with a concentration of disadvantaged students. It is the first such review since DEIS started in 2006.
DEIS covers 657 primary schools and 192 post-primary schools, which fall into one of three categories: urban band 1 for in the most severely disadvantaged areas; urban band 2; and rural DEIS.
Report author Selina McCoy referred to findings on urban band 1 schools and said "we need further debate on the levels of funding required to meet the needs of students in these schools".
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan acknowledged that the report challenged the Government to consider the need for joined-up thinking between education and broader social policy, such as housing and healthcare.
The minister is setting up an inter-departmental group to consider a more integrated approach, as well as a review of the criteria used to identify and categorise schools for the programme.
The ESRI found that, overall, DEIS schools have made some progress in improving attendance and performance of their pupils and in some cases have narrowed the gap with pupils in non-DEIS schools.
There was a significant improvement between 2007 and 2013 in the reading and maths scores of primary students in DEIS schools.
But those years also saw a general improvement in reading and maths among primary pupils generally, so, while DEIS schools kept pace with improvements, the gap did not narrow.
Among the findings is that pupils in DEIS schools in rural areas are performing on a par, and in some cases outperforming, pupils in non-DEIS schools across a range of key indicators, such as reading and maths.
The most disadvantaged primary schools - urban band 1 - have the lowest reading and maths scores.
One of the biggest leaps made by students in DEIS schools in the past decade is in staying in school right through to Leaving Certificate: among those who entered post-primary education in 1995, the gap in retention rates of pupils between DEIS and non-DEIS schools was 22pc, but this has declined to below 11pc.
And there has also been a slight levelling in overall Junior Certificate performance between DEIS and non-DEIS schools.
Absenteeism rates have declined in urban band 1 primary schools, from 24pc of pupils missing for 20 days or more in 2005/06, to 21pc in 2011/12.