The Department of Education is to review DEIS schools funding criteria, Donegal Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said today.
Minister of State McHugh said the Department is rolling out new criteria for the funding programme to replace the “antiquated” system which had been in place since 2008.
“This Government has been working hard over the past few years to establish a new set of more accurate criteria which recognises the advantages of more modern measurements and uses methods including Central Statistics Office (CSO) data.
“I have met school principals from around the county on this issue over the past few years.
“An extra €15 million in funding was announced in February and of the 79 new schools added to the DEIS programme, 22 of them were in County Donegal, more than a quarter.
“Obviously there is huge disappointment in some schools which missed out this time, but I am assured the 79 schools which were included were graded as the most disadvantaged in the State.”
The Donegal TD said the Department will be contacting schools which had lodged appeals in recent weeks.
They will be asked to provide eircodes of all pupils so the economic backgrounds can be assessed again.
Said McHugh: “The new methods being used by the Department are a significant improvement on the 2008 system.
“The process of change is ongoing and I am assured by the Department that none of the schools which missed out had higher levels of disadvantage than the 79 that were recently added to the scheme.
“I have met or spoken with some of the disappointed principals in Donegal. For example Scoil Isogain in Buncrana cannot understand its exclusion when the two nearby secondary schools are already part of the DEIS programme. The disappointment is completely understandable.
“I have also met or spoken with representatives and staff from a number of other schools in Gortahork, Gaoth Dobhair, Inishowen and Ranafast among others.
“The Department will contact each of the schools shortly and I would urge them to provide as much information as possible in time for the review which will take place in July. I will continue to support each of those schools in this process.
“The Department will also re-assess all the new data using up-to-date information from the schools as well as new information from the latest census.”
Minister McHugh says he has been reassured that the reliability of the Department’s new system for measuring disadvantage is much superior to the one which had been in place.
The Department has said that it is now changing one measure used in its new system, and seeking pupil eircodes in order to make its assessments more accurate.
One local school, Scoil Naomh Iosaf, was wrongly classified as an urban school. The Ballymagan school is, of course, a rural school.
McHugh added: “Some people have jumped on this error as alleged evidence the whole process is flawed. This is not the case.
“I wish to acknowledge the positive roles of Deputy Pearse Doherty and Cllr Michéal Choilm Mac Giolla Easbaig in progressing this issue. I have written to a number of school principals today advising them of the review.”