Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has criticized the Government over the on-going failure to ensure the inclusion of a number of schools throughout Donegal which continue to be precluded from the DEIS Programme, despite the most recent expansion of the plan having only taken place last September.
Deputy Doherty was reacting following a Dáil debate on the ongoing exclusion of schools from the scheme tabled last night, during which he called for a review of the scheme in light of the recent publication of new data which shows increased levels of deprivation in several areas across the county.
In its response, the Government confirmed that a review of the programme would be completed in early 2018 however, no timeline was given as to when additional schools would be added.
Slamming the Government’s response, Deputy Doherty said:
“Last night, I immediately sought a response from Government to recent media reports which suggest that hundreds of schools throughout the state have been unfairly excluded from the new DEIS plan introduced earlier this year to coincide with the introduction of a new methodology for indentifying schools whose pupils are most at risk of educational disadvantage.
“Clearly, these reports have only reinforced the genuine concerns which have been expressed by teachers and principals in several schools across Donegal who’ve questioned why their schools continue to be precluded from the scheme, despite the most recent DEIS plan only having been unveiled last September when a limited number of additional schools were added to the programme.
“During the debate last night in the Dáil, I called on the Government to immediately initiate a review of the scheme in light of the most recent data on deprivation levels throughout the state which was only published last September, and which shows elevated levels of disadvantage in many areas of our county.
“During the debate, I highlighted a number of such areas including primary schools such as at Gort a’ Choirce, Rann na Feirste and Mhín Tine Dé, as well as secondary schools such as Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, which all remain outside DEIS.
“Shockingly, not only did the Minister fail to turn up for the debate in person, but the Minister of State appointed by Government to take the session in his absence refused to offer a timeframe as to when such qualifying schools will be added to DEIS going forward.
“Instead, it was stated that a review of the scheme will be completed by the Spring of next year and that this evaluation should identify those schools presently precluded from the plan but which satisfy the criteria for inclusion.
“While I’m glad that the Government has agreed to my suggestion that a review of DEIS be undertaken, it is simply scandalous that it is not in a position to state clearly when additional schools will be added.
“Effectively, the Government is saying that despite it shortly going to be able to identify the very schools which are eligible for DEIS supports, it is refusing to give a commitment that DEIS status will be extended to them immediately following the completion of this review.
“This means that pupils who are amongst those most at risk of educational disadvantage and who are not presently being given the necessary supports remain in limbo as this Government has now refused to pledge that supports will be made available to them without delay.
“There is no reason why the additional resources cannot be allocated to schools which deserve them once this review is finished, and this delaying on the part of Government is a shocking dereliction of its duty to support these children.”