Assessing Levels of Disadvantage in Schools

The Centre has been involved in assessing levels of disadvantage in schools on behalf of the ‎DES for many years.  In 1995, the Centre reviewed the criteria that had been used to identify ‎primary and second-level schools for inclusion in the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS) ‎‎(Kellaghan, Weir, Ó hÚllacháin, & Morgan, 1995).  Further work involved assessing levels ‎of disadvantage in primary schools applying to participate in the Breaking the Cycle scheme ‎introduced in 1996 (Weir, 1999) and for the Giving Children an Even Break programme ‎introduced at primary level in 2001 (Weir, 2004).  More recently, an assessment of ‎disadvantage at both primary and second level was completed for the School Support ‎Programme (SSP) element of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) ‎programme.  The assessment involved a survey of primary schools (Archer & Sofroniou, ‎‎2008) in 2005 and an analysis of centrally-held data on educational and socioeconomic ‎variables in post-primary schools in 2005 and 2006 (Weir, 2006).  Subsequent to the initial ‎assessment of disadvantage, surveys of new and amalgamated primary schools were ‎carried out in 2007 and 2008 with modified versions of the questionnaire that was used in the ‎‎2005 survey.  Results of these surveys were used to allocate resources where indicated ‎under DEIS.  More recently, the Centre was asked by the Special Education section of the DES to conduct a survey to assess the socioeconomic ‎characteristics of students attending all primary and post-primary schools nationwide (see also ‎the section concerning A survey of the social contexts of primary and second-level schools in ‎Centre’s programme of work). While the Centre is currently not formally engaged in the assessment of disadvantage, the issue of identification remains part of the Centre’s programme of work.  An ‎exploration of the ways in which identification methods might be improved – particularly in ‎light of new data sources and of changing economic conditions – is the subject of ongoing investigation.‎ A technical group, established by the DES and comprised of some members of Centre staff ‎and officials from the DES, has been working on using other data sources to help in the ‎identification of schools that serve disadvantaged families. One specific method being ‎explored involves using the ‘HP index’, which uses census data to provide profiles of small ‎areas in terms of their relative disadvantage and affluence.‎