Educational disadvantage refers to the situation where some individuals get less benefit from the education system than their peers. The Education Act 1998 defines educational disadvantage as “the impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevent students from deriving appropriate benefit from education in schools”. Educational disadvantage is demonstrated in many ways, most often in poor levels of participation and achievement in the formal education system.
There are other ways in which children may be disadvantaged, for example as a result of a disability, literacy difficulties, ill health, etc. Read about the supports for their education in special needs education, psychological services for schools, financial help with going to school and special educational arrangements for Travellers.
The Department of Education and Skills had a range of national programmes in place to address educational disadvantage throughout the public school system. In 2005, following a review of these programmes, the Department published DEIS - Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools: an action plan for educational inclusion (pdf). The plan brought a number of those programmes together under the framework of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS). DEIS is a more integrated approach to the issue of educational inclusion which provides for:
There is a list of DEIS schools.
The School Support Programme involving the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL), the School Completion Programme (SCP) and the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers (VTST) were integrated into the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). On 1 January 2014, the National Educational Welfare Board was abolished and it's functions transferred to the Child and Family Agency.
Early Start is a one-year preventative intervention scheme offered to pre-school children (3 to 4 years old) in some schools in designated disadvantaged areas. More detailed information about Early Start is available.
The School Completion Programme aims to help students from disadvantaged areas stay in school to complete their Leaving Certificate. It forms part of the Department of Education and Skills social inclusion strategy Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) to help children and young people who are at risk of or who are experiencing educational disadvantage.
The Home-School Community Liaison Scheme aims to improve co-operation between home, schools and communities to advance the educational interests of disadvantaged children.
Learning support teachers provide extra support teaching for children experiencing learning difficulties, particularly in the core areas of literacy and numeracy. Generally this extra support is provided in the form of extra teaching in small groups or individually.
The School Meals Programme aims to supplement the diets of school-going children from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them fulfil their potential within the educational system and to reduce the risk of early school-leaving. There are two schemes.
The Urban Scheme supports school meals for primary schools in urban areas. This programme consists of daily sandwiches or buns and milk. The scheme is not a replacement for home meals.
The Local Projects Scheme gives funding directly to national and secondary
schools, local groups and voluntary organisations, which operate their own
school meals projects (the meals may be hot or cold). It also covers nursery
schools catering for disadvantaged pre-school children. These meals must be
targeted at areas of disadvantage or at children with special needs. Funding is
allocated on the basis of a rate per meal per child.
Funding for school meals comes from the Department of Social Protection and local authorities.
These projects are geared towards young people in the second-level education age group but they are also relevant for some primary school students.
Under this scheme, grants are allocated by the Department of Education and
Skills (DES) in respect of special out-of-school projects for disadvantaged
young people. Priority is given to projects in the spheres of special youth
work initiatives, young homeless people, young substance abusers and young
The projects are aimed at facilitating the personal development and social education of young people at risk of drug abuse, juvenile crime, early school leaving, social exclusion, unemployment, welfare dependence,homelessness and marginalisation. In particular, they seek to realise the potential of young people and to equip them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for their appropriate integration in society.
The DES funds the network of Youth Information Centres (pdf) which provide young people with access to information on rights, opportunities, benefits, health, welfare and other matters.
This was established to help in the development of preventative strategies in a targeted manner through the development of youth facilities, including sport and recreational facilities, and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop. The aim of the fund is to attract young people in these areas at risk of becoming involved in drugs into more healthy and productive pursuits.
For further information on DEIS contact the Social Inclusion Unit of the Department of Education and Skills.
For further information on the School Completion Programme contact the Co-ordination Service in the Curriculum Development Unit.
For further information on the School Meals Scheme contact your local authority or the Department of Social Protection. There is an application form for the School Meals Local Projects Scheme (pdf). You can download the Good Practice Guide for School Food Initiatives (pdf) here.
Contact your local Education and Training Board (ETB) for funding for DES Projects for Disadvantaged Youth.
Contact the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for funding for the YPFSF.
The Department of Education and Skills
Tel:(090) 648 4111
Department of Social Protection
Tel:(071) 913 8625 or (071) 913 8638
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.