Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 02 October, 2003
Written Answers. - Educational Disadvantage.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
12. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which his Department has examined the education system, with a view to ensuring improved access and quality of education for children at primary level, with particular reference to areas of social or economic deprivation, but with a view to achieving a uniformed standard throughout the country and thus providing the students with the means for greater achievement through education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21407/03]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): I recognise the importance of early intervention as a means of preventing future educational disadvantage. As well as supporting a number of early intervention programmes at pre-school level, I have provided more than €70 million in 2003 for disadvantaged programmes at primary level, aimed at ensuring that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are given the opportunity to maximise their potential within the education system.
Key programmes include the Giving Children an Even Break programme and the home school community liaison scheme. Other measures directed towards the support of primary school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds include the book grant scheme and the school meals programme. The school completion programme and the National Educational Welfare Board, both of which operate at primary and post primary levels, also play a crucial role in this regard. In all this work I am advised by the statutory Educational Disadvantage Committee set up under the Education Act 1998 to advise on the policies and strategies to be adopted to identify and address educational disadvantage.
The provision of up to date curricula that are relevant to the learning needs of students makes an important contribution to the quality of the educational experience. A revised primary school curriculum and accompanying teacher guidelines were published by my Department in September 1999. The implementation of this curriculum is being supported by a comprehensive programme of in-career development for teachers, delivered by the primary curriculum support programme. This curriculum is designed in order that teachers can provide an educational programme tailored to the needs of all pupils.
My Department conducts regular national surveys of literacy and numeracy standards in primary schools. A national literacy survey of pupils in first and fifth classes in primary schools will be held in May 2004.
 My Department also conducted a survey of reading achievement of pupils in first, third and sixth classes in schools designated as disadvantaged in May 2003. The purpose of this assessment was to establish baseline data against which to measure progress in relation to literacy achievement by the pupils in these schools.
The vast majority of primary schools administer standardised literacy tests to their pupils to monitor pupil progress and standards. The inspectorate of my Department evaluates literacy standards in schools during inspections and furnishes reports to individual schools and their boards of management. School and class records of pupil progress in literacy are kept within schools and are generally examined by the inspectorate during inspections.
Dáil Éireann 571 Written Answers. Educational Disadvantage.