(Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools)

Work began in 2007 on an independent evaluation of the SSP (School Support Programme) ‎component of DEIS in primary and post-primary schools.  Since then, the evaluation has been ‎monitoring implementation of the programme and assessing its impact on participants.

Monitoring achievement and other pupil outcomes during the periods 2006/07 and ‎‎2015/16 has been a key feature of the evaluation at primary level. In 2007, pupils took tests in ‎English reading and mathematics and completed a questionnaire about their attitudes to ‎school and leisure pursuits.  Their parents and teachers were also asked to complete brief ‎questionnaires.  In schools in the urban dimension of the SSP, pupils in Second, Third and ‎Sixth classes were involved and in the rural dimension of the SSP, Third and Sixth class ‎pupils were involved.  Testing was repeated in the same schools and with many of the same ‎pupils in the spring of 2010.  At this point, Fifth class pupils were added to the testing programme, the purpose of which ‎was to provide a second cohort of pupils for longitudinal study in the 3-year testing cycle ‎‎(i.e., 2nd to 5th class). Outcome data‎ showed that pupil achievement in urban schools had ‎increased significantly between 2007 and 2010 in both reading and mathematics at ‎all grade levels (Weir & Archer, 2011).  Testing was repeated ‎in the sample of urban schools in May 2013, and this revealed that ‎the ‎gains made between 2007 and 2010 had not only been ‎maintained but have been built ‎upon. A report describing cross-‎sectional and longitudinal ‎changes in pupils achievement ‎was published in late 2013‎ (Weir & ‎Denner, 2013).‎

A fourth ‎round of testing took place May 2016 in urban schools and a report on the ‎outcomes of that exercise will be available in due course.‎ Investigating the nature of disadvantage in rural areas represents an ongoing aspect of the Centre’s programme of work.

Accounts of the evaluation in rural schools, ‎and characteristics of disadvantage in rural areas, are also available (Weir & McAvinue, 2013; Weir, Errity & McAvinue, 2015‎).  ‎The evaluation in rural schools revealed qualitative and quantitative differences in educational ‎disadvantage in urban and rural areas, and pointed to a much stronger relationship between ‎poverty and educational outcomes in urban DEIS schools than in rural ones. ‎

Implementation studies have been a key feature of the evaluation since the outset.‎ Weir and ‎Archer (2011) noted high levels of programme implementation in general in ‎participating ‎schools. This was particularly true in the case of school planning for DEIS. ‎Engagement with planning and target setting required in key areas ‎(e.g., in relation to ‎pupil ‎achievement and parent involvement) was found to be very high ‎among participating ‎schools. ‎In another implementation study,‎ Weir and McAvinue (2012) noted that the ‎programme had largely had the expected effects on class size in schools ‎participating in the ‎urban dimension of the programme. Analyses of more recent class size ‎data in urban DEIS schools have also been completed (Kelleher ‎& Weir, 2017).  ‎

At second level, in 2007/08, all participating schools were asked to facilitate a ‎questionnaire survey of all students in First year and Third year.  The questionnaire covered a ‎number of issues, including students’ experience of transition from primary to post-primary ‎school, their attitudes to school, their leisure activities, and their educational aspirations.  ‎Students’ responses revealed that, in general, they held very positive attitudes to school, ‎although a minority of ‘disaffected’ students was identified.

In 2012/13, all of the 195 second-‎level schools in the SSP were visited and interviews were ‎conducted with principals. The ‎visits also facilitated the administration of a questionnaire ‎concerned with implementation ‎issues including planning. Interview and questionnaire data, ‎along with feedback provided by ‎those that visited schools, formed the basis of an evaluation ‎report on implementation at second level  ‎(Weir, McAvinue, Moran & O’Flaherty, 2014).  That report also described socioeconomic and educational trends using data provided by ‎the ‎DES and the State Examinations Commission (e.g., Junior Cycle retention rates and ‎Junior ‎Certificate Examination performance) ‎in SSP and non-SSP schools since the ‎programme began.‎ Analyses of trend data in educational outcomes for more recent years ‎confirmed the earlier ‎findings (McAvinue & Weir, 2015). As with primary schools in the programme, the ongoing ‎evaluation will involve continued ‎monitoring of implementation and outcomes in participating ‎post-primary schools.‎

Last updated in September 2016