Tackling disadvantage in primary schools


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.

COVID-19 and education programmes

The School Meals Programme will run for 9 weeks during summer 2020 until funding starts for the new school year 2020/2021. The programme usually finishes at the end of May for post-primary schools and the end of June for primary schools.

A summer education programme (or Summer Provision) for children at risk of educational disadvantage and for children with significant special education needs ran during July and August 2020.

School Completion Programme

The School Completion Programme (SCP), introduced in 2002, focuses on young people between the ages of 4 and 18 years of age. The Programme forms 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.

School Completion Programme aims to keep young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle or equivalent and to generally improve the quality of participation and educational attainment. Each project is managed by a local management committee and provides a tailored programme of in-school, after school and holiday time interventions to targeted children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving. The programme provides flexibility for schools to develop more effective strategies, like out-of-school support and outreach, family support, mentoring, staff development and parental involvement.

School Meals Programme

The School Meals Programme is a separate programme 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 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). In 2004 the scheme was 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.

School Milk Scheme

The School Milk Scheme entitles schoolgoing 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 concerns which are operated for commercial gain are not eligible under the rules of the School Milk Scheme.

How to apply

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

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).

Where to apply

Social Inclusion Unit

The Department of Education

Tel: (090) 648 4111

Page edited: 21 December 2020