Tackling disadvantage in primary schools

Tackling educational disadvantage

The Department of Education has several schemes aimed at tackling educational disadvantage in primary schools. Some of these come within the framework of the Department’s initiative Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS). This initiative brings together a range of national programmes to address educational disadvantage throughout the school system.

School Completion Programme

The School Completion Programme (SCP), focuses on young people between the ages of 4 and 18 years of age. The Programme is part of the Department of Education 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 School Completion Programme aims to keep young people in school until they complete the senior cycle or equivalent, and to generally improve their participation and educational attainment. Each project is managed by a local management committee. The committee provides a tailored programme of in-school, after school and holiday time interventions to specific children and young people who are at risk of leaving school early.

Schools can develop effective strategies, such as out-of-school support and outreach, family support, mentoring, staff development and parental involvement.

School Meals Programme

The School Meals Programme is funded by the Department of Social Protection and local authorities. It aims to supplement the diets of school-going children from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them fulfil their potential in school 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 run their own school meals projects (the meals may be hot or cold). The scheme has been extended to 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.

From September 2023, the Hot School Meals Programme is available to all DEIS primary schools.

From April 2024, the Hot School Meals Programme will expand to more schools. You can read the list of Schools approved for the Hot School Meals Programme from April 2024.

School Milk Scheme

The School Milk Scheme entitles school-going children to a quarter litre of milk on each school day. Pre-schools, primary and second-level schools are eligible for the Scheme, which is funded by the EU and the Irish Government. Crèches and other childminding businesses are not eligible under the rules of the School Milk Scheme.

Further information

For further information on DEIS, contact the Social Inclusion Unit of the Department of Education.

Read more about the DEIS programme on citizensinformation.ie.

For further information on the Schools Meals Scheme, contact the local authority or the Department of Social Protection.

You can get an application form for the School Meals Local Projects Scheme (pdf). You can also get the Nutrition Standards for Hot School Meals (pdf).

Social Inclusion Unit

The Department of Education

Tel: (090) 648 3600
Page edited: 7 December 2023