Studies of Educational Disadvantage in Schools in Rural Settings

A study of disadvantage in rural primary schools was prompted by a belief, supported by ‎some empirical evidence (e.g., from the evaluation of the Breaking the Cycle scheme in rural ‎areas and from the modelling exercise with the data from the 2005 survey of disadvantage ‎for DEIS) that the relationship between socioeconomic factors and educational outcomes is ‎weaker in rural than in urban settings.‎

Test data collected from rural schools in 2007 as part of the evaluation of the School ‎Support Programme (SSP) under DEIS were used to examine the nature of disadvantage in ‎rural areas.  In a first report on the issue, Weir, Archer and Millar (2009) described how ‎pupils in the rural dimension of the SSP performed significantly better than pupils in urban ‎SSP schools.  They also found that poverty was less concentrated in the rural than in the ‎urban sample, but no evidence could be found to implicate this in the explanation of the ‎superior performance of rural pupils over their urban counterparts.  No evidence of small ‎school size mitigating the effects of poverty on educational outcomes was found.  However, ‎the presence of relatively large numbers of pupils from some counties in the west of Ireland in ‎the rural sample appeared to account for some, but not all, of the urban/rural achievement ‎gap.  There was, however, support for the idea that the relationship between socioeconomic ‎characteristics and pupil achievement differs both quantitatively and qualitatively in rural and ‎urban areas.  The report concluded by suggesting that further work, in particular focusing on ‎the differential home experiences of pupils in rural and urban areas, was indicated.  That work ‎is currently being advanced and a report on the issue was released in 2013 (see Weir & ‎McAvinue, 2013).