DEIS (Delivering Equality of opportunity In Schools)

NAMER ’21 DEIS Context Report

Ireland’s 2021 National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading: Exploring the home backgrounds, classrooms and schools of pupils in Urban DEIS schools. The report draws on data from the pupil, teacher and school questionnaires from NAMER ’21 and profiles the homes, classrooms, and schools of participating pupils in Urban DEIS schools.

Download the report. Download the infographic summary.

Overview of ERC work on the DEIS evaluation

Work by the ERC, on behalf of the Department of Education, 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 2021.

Current and planned work

The current work of the ERC in evaluating DEIS is guided by the DEIS action plan 2017.

At primary level, the assessment of pupils in DEIS urban schools has been incorporated into the National Assessment of Mathematics and English Reading (NAMER). Data collection for NAMER has been completed. The NAMER 2021 performance report will be published in 2022 and a context report will follow in 2023.

ERC staff support the work of the DEIS Technical Group and the DEIS Monitoring and Evaluation group.

At post-primary level, recent work has focused on secondary analysis of data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

As part of its work on DEIS, the ERC is also supporting the evaluation of P-TECH  in Dublin’s North-East inner city. Data collection has taken place with participating students in three schools, industry partners and mentors. Findings were reported to the Department of Education and  P-TECH Steering Group in September 2021.

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

The Educational Research Centre (ERC) launched a new report on June 30th 2021 examining the home and school learning environments of 15-year olds in DEIS and non-DEIS schools. The report – Beyond achievement: home, school and wellbeing findings from PISA 2018 for students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools – also describes findings regarding students’ attitudes, educational and career aspirations, and wellbeing.

Some of the key positive findings were that students in both DEIS and non-DEIS schools had access to a wide range of extra-curricular activities, and virtually all participating students had principals who reported that there were school policies in place to student support wellbeing. School principals reported that all students had access to extra-curricular sports. Large majorities of students also had access to other extra-curricular activities including lectures or seminars; band, orchestra or choir; maths competitions; or art clubs. Another welcome finding was that parents of students in DEIS schools generally held positive views regarding school policies aimed at supporting parental involvement in education.

On the other hand, the authors found unauthorised absences were more commonly reported as a hindrance to learning in DEIS schools compared with non-DEIS schools. About three-quarters of students in DEIS schools (77%) and half in non-DEIS schools (51%) had principals who identified unauthorised student absence as a hindrance to learning. Just over one-in-five students in DEIS schools (22%), compared to 7% in non-DEIS schools, had principals who reported that student use of alcohol or drugs hindered learning. Students in non-DEIS schools valued education more highly than students in DEIS schools (with higher scores on an index measuring students’ attitudes towards the value of schooling). In both DEIS and non-DEIS schools, boys reported valuing education less than girls.

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 ‎DE 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.‎

Recent analyses of trend data in educational outcomes for more recent years ‎confirm the earlier ‎findings (McAvinue & Weir, 2015; Weir & Kavanagh, 2018).

The most recent work of the ERC DEIS team has focused on secondary analysis of PISA data at post-primary level. In November 2020, the first of two PISA-DEIS reports was launched. It examined the achievement of 15-year old students in DEIS schools, comparing the achievements of students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools in 2018 and in previous PISA cycles.

Findings show that In PISA 2018, the average reading score in DEIS schools was at the level of the OECD average. Although average reading achievement was lower in DEIS than in non-DEIS schools, the difference between the two was smaller in 2018 than in 2009. In PISA 2018 mathematics and science, students in DEIS schools scored below the OECD average and also scored below students in non-DEIS schools.


Download the report       Download the overview

The second of the two PISA-DEIS reports was released in June 2021. It is available to download here:

Download the report Download the infographic


DEIS Seminar 2014

In March 2014, the Educational Research Centre, in collaboration with the (then) 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. ‎