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For Oral Answer on : 02/02/2023
Question Number(s): 133 Question Reference(s): 5036/23
Department: Education
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.


To ask the Minister for Education if she will report on the impact of the delivering equality of opportunity in schools’ programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.


Supplementing the universal supports available to all schools, the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) Programme is a key policy initiative of my Department to address concentrated educational disadvantage at school level, in a targeted and equitable way, across the primary and post-primary sector.

The renewed DEIS Plan published in 2017 sets out the vision for future interventions in the critical area of educational disadvantage policy and builds on what has already been achieved by schools who have benefitted from the additional supports available under the initial DEIS programme introduced in 2005.

 The OECD Education Policy Outlook Report for Ireland published in June 2020 notes that “The education system became more equitable as Ireland had one of the lowest shares of low performers among students from disadvantaged backgrounds (21% compared to 35% in the EU) and among students with a migrant background (14% compared to 35% in the EU).

In March 2022, I was glad to be able to announce a major expansion of the DEIS programme. This means that, for the first time since 2017, the programme was significantly expanded to include an additional 322 schools. This means that the DEIS programme now supports over 240,000 students in circa 1,200 schools.

There has been an extensive programme evaluation of DEIS to date by the Educational Research Centre (ERC), with published reports available on the ERC website. Analysis has shown that since the DEIS programme began, it has had considerable impact in our schools and helped to close the gap in achievement between DEIS and non-DEIS schools.

“The Evaluation of DEIS at post-primary level: Closing the achievement and attainment gaps”, a report published by the ERC in January 2019 shows a narrowing of the gap between DEIS and non-DEIS schools both in terms of performance at Junior Cycle level and retention rates.

My Department’s Inspectorate also carry out a programme of DEIS inspections and the findings are contained in a series of published reports. A composite Inspectorate report published in April 2022 “Looking at DEIS Action Planning for Improvement in Primary and Post-Primary Schools” concluded that where the most effective practice was observed, DEIS action planning for improvement was the vehicle to drive overall school improvement. It was found, in general, schools are implementing a significant number of interventions to bolster literacy, numeracy and the wellbeing of their students with resources, specific interventions and supports targeted to meet the needs of pupils/students who are most at risk of educational disadvantage.

The latest Retention Report published by the Department measures the percentage of students who entered the first year of post-primary school in 2015 and who sat the Leaving Certificate examination in 2020 or 2021. The Report shows that 92.1% of the students who entered first year in 2015 received either a calculated grade in 2020 or sat the Leaving Certificate examination in 2020 or 2021, while 97.5 % sat the Junior Certificate examination in 2018 or 2019.

From the most recent report on the 2015 entry cohort, the retention rate to the Leaving Certificate of students in DEIS schools was 86.1% per cent, while for non-DEIS schools, it was 93.7%, a gap of 7.6 percentage points. The comparable results for the 2014 cohort were 84.8% for DEIS and 93.4% for non-DEIS, with a gap of 8.6 percentage points.

Schools participating in the DEIS Programme have seen retention rates to Leaving Certificate improve since the introduction of DEIS – from 80.1% for the 2006 entry cohort to 86.1% for the 2015 entry cohort. The gap in retention rates between DEIS and non-DEIS schools has narrowed from a gap of 16.8 percentage points for the 2001 entry cohort to a gap of 7.6 percentage points for the 2015 cohort.