DEIS and non-DEIS schools compare favourably but report highlights inequalities

There were no significant differences in reports of wellbeing and bullying, however concerns were raised at the higher level of unauthorised absences in DEIS schools.

STUDENTS IN DEIS and non-DEIS schools report similar levels of positive feelings and wellbeing, according to a new report.

There were no significant differences in reports of bullying either, however concerns were raised by principals at the higher level of unauthorised absences in DEIS schools. 

The findings make up a new report by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) examining the home and school learning environments of 15-year-olds in DEIS and non-DEIS schools.

The report also describes findings regarding students’ attitudes, educational and career aspirations, and is based on data collected for the OECD’s PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment), one of the world’s largest studies of educational achievement, according to the authors. 

Among the more positive findings were that students in both DEIS and non-DEIS schools had access to a wide range of extra-curricular activities, including music and art clubs, as well as access to extra-curricular sports.

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.

Drugs and alcohol were reported by principals as a hindrance to learning for just over one-in-five students in DEIS schools (22%), compared to 7% in non-DEIS schools.

Dr Lorraine Gilleece, one of the report’s authors, said that the figure on student absences is a concern. 

“Two-thirds of students in DEIS schools had principals who indicated that students not being attentive was a barrier to learning,” she said.

“Given the central importance of second-level education in providing future opportunities for study and work, it is undoubtedly an important challenge for DEIS schools if students are absent or inattentive.

“These findings confirm the need for the wellbeing framework, which is now even more important, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There was little difference when it came to resources at home, with a similar number of students from both school settings owning a laptop, phone or tablet. 

On several measures relating to wellbeing, students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools were similar to one another.

These included measures around overall meaning in life, positive feelings, and self-beliefs about resilience, with no significant differences between the mean scores of students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools. 

Minister for Education Norma Foley said it was important for the report to highlight wellbeing given the impact of the pandemic.  

“These positive findings relating to DEIS schools would not be possible without the commitment and dedication shown by the principals and teachers in these schools. It is vital that we continue our commitment to support those schools with the highest concentrations of disadvantage under the DEIS programme to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

However, the ERS report does point to differences between students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools in access to educational resources at home.

Students in DEIS schools had access to fewer books at home than students in non-DEIS schools, with one-quarter of students in DEIS schools reporting that they had 10 books or fewer at home. Just one in ten students in non-DEISE schools reported similar. 

The report also found that students in DEIS schools were less likely than their non-DEIS counterparts to have a parent or guardian with a degree-level qualification. While over half of students (52%) in non-DEIS schools had a parent or guardian with a degree-level qualification, the corresponding percentage in DEIS schools was 31%.

Differences were evident in the educational and career aspirations of students in DEIS and non-DEIS settings, as fewer than half (45%) in DEIS schools indicated they expect to complete a degree-level qualification or above. This contrasted with 62% in non-DEIS schools.







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