Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has said the expansion of the DEIS programme is a positive development but added that far greater transparency is required on the criteria for entry to the scheme.

Deputy Byrne said, “The expansion of the DEIS scheme is something which Fianna Fáil has long pushed for. The scheme was initially introduced under a Fianna Fáil Government and it has played an important role in tackling disadvantage and social exclusion.

“While we do accept that data held centrally by the Central Statistics Office and the Department of Education and Skills has been used to select schools, that process had been nonetheless shrouded in secrecy with little information given to schools or the general public.

“We know the criteria used to select schools for participation in the initial DEIS scheme, but it’s surprising that no details have been released regarding the criteria used for the new assessment scheme.

“It is remarkable that the Governments own policy document on DEIS does not give any details on the methodology used or any explanation of the reasons for inclusion of some schools but not others.

“There also does not appear to be any process for schools to appeal a decision. Schools should have an opportunity to challenge the outcome on their designation and allowed to present supplementary evidence to support their case for DEIS status.

“Schools have access to additional local information on their student’s intake that the Department does not have easy access to. The absence of any insight from schools themselves into the designation process is, frankly, both arrogant and incomplete.

“Indeed even the Departments own DEIS Action Plan published yesterday acknowledges that the methodology needs to be refined and improved. However the Minister has failed to indicate how this was achieved in advance of yesterday’s announcement.

“This has all the hallmarks of an incomplete approach which could exclude many disadvantaged children from the benefit of this important education programme,” concluded Deputy Byrne.