Work by the ERC on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills began in 2007 on an ongoing 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.
Periodic monitoring of achievement and other pupil outcomes has been a key feature of the evaluation at primary level since 2006/07.
Below is a summary of key activities covering 2007 to current and planned work up to 2021.
Current and planned work
The current work of the ERC in evaluating DEIS is guided by the DEIS action plan 2017.
In 2020, the assessment of primary school children in DEIS schools will be incorporated into the overall design of the National Assessment of Mathematics and English Reading (NAMER).
Evaluation of the implementation of DEIS
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).
More recently, the results of a survey of Home-School-Community-Liaison coordinators in primary and post-primary schools was published, and show positive implementation results (Weir et al., 2018).
Initial assessments at primary level – 2007 and 2010
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).
DEIS in urban primary school settings
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 in May 2016 in a sample of 118 urban schools and involving 17,000 students (see Kavanagh, Weir & Moran, 2017). Contextual information on pupils’ lives and learning has also been collected from pupils, their parents and their teachers. A 2018 report summarises the contextual information collected between 2007 and 2016, and explores links between achievement outcomes and pupil, family and school characteristics and practices (Kavanagh & Weir, 2018).
DEIS in rural primary school settings
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.
DEIS in post-primary settings
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.
DEIS Seminar 2014
In March 2014, the Educational Research Centre, in collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills, hosted a day-long seminar entitled ‘Learning from DEIS’. The full text of the Minister’s Speech, and videos of the presentations made by centre staff may be accessed below.
- Opening Address by Ruairí Quinn, T.D. Minister for Education and Skills. Click here for the full text.
- Addressing disadvantage: What have we learned from the evaluation of DEIS in urban primary schools?
Presentations by Susan Weir and Darina Errity of the Educational Research Centre (VIDEO)
- Educational disadvantage in rural areas
Presentation by Susan Weir of the Educational Research Centre (VIDEO)
- The evaluation of DEIS in post-primary schools
Presentations by Peter Archer and Laura McAvinue of Educational Research Centre (VIDEO).