Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Education Robbie Gallagher says he’s dismayed that the Education Minister appeared to reject calls for an independent review mechanism for appeals under the DEIS scheme.

Senator Gallagher raised the issue with Minister Bruton in the Seanad this week, following concerns from schools, which failed to qualify for DEIS status.

“I have serious concerns about the transparency of the system that is currently used to designate DEIS schools.  While I welcome the expansion of the scheme, it seems odd that at primary level only one school in Cavan and one in Monaghan made the expanded list.  I have no issue with the Department of Education using data from the Central Statistics Office to determine what schools qualify for the scheme, the process is conducted behind closed doors and there is very little information provided to schools about how the selection process is carried out”, said Senator Gallagher.

“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.  This is highly unusual and there needs to be more transparency within the system.

“Fianna Fáil introduced the DEIS scheme in 2006 and it has played an important role in tackling educational disadvantage and social exclusion.  At that time, there was an independent review mechanism which allowed schools which did not qualify for the scheme to put forward a case for their inclusion.  I am calling on Minister Bruton to give serious consideration to the reintroduction of this appeals process.

“Schools have a right to know what criteria is used to determine their eligibility for the DEIS programme and there is an onus on the Minister and the Department to ensure that the process is fully transparent.  Unless this issue is urgently addressed, concerns about disadvantaged children being excluded from the scheme will remain”.