Thursday 22 February 2018

Improvement in students' scores in designated disadvantaged urban primary schools

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The reading and maths scores of students in designated disadvantaged urban primary schools are continuing to improve.

A new round of testing has shown better results across the board, including significant climbs by the lowest achievers.

Meanwhile, in the group of schools categorised as less disadvantaged, average pupil achievement levels are now close to or surpassing national norms.

These are the findings from the latest evaluation of pupils in schools in the Department of Education’s Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DIES), carried out by the Educational Research Centre (ERC).

Primary schools in the DEIS scheme are categorised as either Band 1, serving the most severely disadvantaged communities,  or Band 2,  where the level of disadvantage is not as great.

The latest round of testing, in 2016, is the fourth since 2007 and involved 17,000 students in second, third, fifth and sixth classes in a sample of 118 schools.

The average test scores were higher than for previous years, with much of the improvement in reading and maths among lower achievers, the ERC found.

For example, since 2007 the percentage of sixth class students scoring among the lowest 10pc in reading fell from 28pc to 18pc , while in maths it tumbled from 31pc to 15pc.

As with previous tests, the average reading and maths scores of Band 1 students, at all grade levels, were lower than those of Band 2 students, and average scores in Band 1 schools remain considerably below national norms.

However,  the average scores of students in Band 2 schools are approaching or surpassing national norms in several instances, particularly in maths, the ERC found.

DEIS schools receive additional supports and resources,  such as extra staffing, to help them overcome disadvantage in the communities.

The ERC says it is difficult to say how much of the improvement can be attributed to participation in DEIS, as standards in reading and maths have improved nationally since 2009.

What the evaluation did show was ongoing improvement in school attendance since 2007, and a substantial increase in the proportion of pupils reporting that they liked school. There was also an increase in pupils’  educational aspirations and expectations over the period.

The ERC is now preparing for further research into factors such as pupils’  home background.

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