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Community Education Facilitators National Training Galway, 13th and 14th November 2006

From Educational Disadvantage to Educational Equality Community-based Education and wider Policy Issues

Trutz Haase

The Concept of Educational Disadvantage

The Education Act 1998 (Section 32.9) defines educational disadvantage as “the impediments to education arising from social or economic disadvantage which prevent students from deriving appropriate benefits from education in schools�.

Historical Perspective

A generation ago, more than 55% of the age cohort had left school by the age of 15 and only 20% of the age cohort completed second level education.

Today, about 3% of the cohort leave before completing junior cycle and over 80% sit a Leaving Certificate.

Over 85% of these proceed to some form of further or higher education or training.

Current Level of Early School Leaving

Between 700 and 1,000 young people do not transfer from primary to second level.

Of those who enter second level, about 2,400 (3.2%) do not stay on to sit the Junior Cert. 3 years later.

About 10,600 of those who sit Junior Cert. do not stay on to sit Leaving Cert. Half of these leave formal education after the Junior Cert.

In all, at the end of the 1990s, about 13,000 young people (18.4% of the cohort) are leaving school annually without the Leaving Cert. (Department of Education & Science - 2002)

The Need for a multi-faceted approach to more inclusive Education

There is widespread recognition within OECD countries that successful initiatives to respond to the problem of educational disadvantage require integration of and collaboration between statutory and voluntary agencies and between educators / trainers and parents and their communities. (OECD Overcoming Failure in School, 1998)

Changes in Approach to Learning

Towards a seamless delivery of integrated and co-ordinated approaches spanning four axes: 


Family / Community


Training, further education and work (NESF Early School Leavers , 2002)

Approaches: Individual

Literacy and Numeracy

Self-esteem and Confidence Building

Provision for special needs

Culturally appropriate education

Attainment of core competencies

Approaches: Family / Community

Addressing basic rights for food, clothing and shelter

Family support and Parenting

Effective Partnership between formal and non-formal sectors

Networking and Integrated Development


Approaches: School

Pre-school provision

Teaching Supports and School Resources

Tracking (incl. primary and second level transfer)

Out-of-School Support

Parental Involvement

Curriculum Flexibility

Achievement Awards

Whole School Approach

Approaches: Training, Further Education and Work

Lifelong Learning

In-Work training

Opportunities for Continuing / Second Chance Education

Education / Work Transitions

Vocational Pathways and Skills Credits

Work / Education Links

Current Interventions: Early Childhood Education

Centre for Early Childhood Education and Care

Early Start

Rutland Street Project

Traveller pre-school Education

Special Needs – Early Childhood Services

Current Interventions: Primary Level (selective headings)

Giving Children an Even Break / Breaking the Cycle

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL)

Learning Support/ Resource Teachers

Education of Non-nationals

Book Grant Scheme

Traveller Education

Current Interventions: Second Level (selective headings)

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Support Teachers/Special Needs Assistants

Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL)

Learning Support/ Resource Teachers

Education of Non-nationals

Book Grant Scheme

Exam Fees Exemptions

Traveller Education

Substance Misuse Prevention

Current Interventions: (selective headings)

School Completion Programme (Primary and Post-Primary)

National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)

Youth 

Youth Services

Senior traveller Training Centres


Current Interventions: Further Education (selective headings)

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS)

Post Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs)

Access to Third Level

Millenium Partnership Fund for Disadvantage

Current Interventions: Adult Education

Adult Literacy

Education Equality Initiative (EEI)

Community Education

Back to Education Initiative

Moving from Alleviating Educational Disadvantage to greater Educational Equality…

There are now some 60 initiatives in place to help alleviate Educational Disadvantage.

There is no doubt that educational standards have massively improved throughout Ireland over the past two decades.

But questions remain as to the relative life chances afforded to individuals and communities:

Educational achievements (depending on social class) have remained highly differentiated.

Access to third level education remains highly differentiated.

Requirements to access jobs have increased.

Overall improvement in educational outcomes may thus not have contributed much to alleviating education inequalities.

Assessing Outcomes: Coombes’ Definition of Deprivation

 Relative Deprivation “The fundamental implication of the term deprivation is of an absence – of essential or desirable attributes, possessions and opportunities which are considered no more than the minimum by that society.” (Coombes et al., 1995: p.5)

The Underlying Dimensions of Social Disadvantage

 Demographic Decline 

population loss and the social and demographic effects of prolonged population loss (age dependency, low education of adult population)

 Social Class Deprivation 

social class composition, education, housing comfort

 Labour Market Deprivation 

unemployment, lone parents, low skills base

The Model of Disadvantage


Age Dependency Rate


Population Change


Primary Education Only


Third Level Education


Professional Classes


Persons per Room


Single Parent Households


Semi/Unskilled Manual Classes


Male Unemployment Rate


Female Unemployment Rate

Demographic Decline

Social Class Disadvantage

Lab. Mkt. Deprivation

Comparison of Absolute Deprivation Scores 1991, 1996 and 2002

1600 1400 1200 1000






400 200 0 -50 to -30 -30 to -20 -20 to -10

-10 to 0

0 to 10

10 to 20

20 to 30

30 to 50

 1991 to 2002: unprecedented growth in Ireland  1991 – 1996: increase of +7  1996 – 2002: increase of +8 Note: marginally narrowing shape of distribution (i.e. more equal)

Relative Affluence and Deprivation 2002

1200 1000 800 600 400 200



-50 to 30

-30 to 20

-20 to 10

-10 to 0

0 to 10

10 to 20 to 30 to 20 30 50

-50 to 30

-30 to 20

-20 to 10

-10 to 0

0 to 10

10 to 20 to 30 to 20 30 50

-50 to 30

-30 to 20

-20 to 10

-10 to 0

0 to 10

10 to 20 to 30 to 20 30 50

1400 1200 1000 800 600 400


200 0

1400 1200 1000 800 600 400


200 0

Haase & Pratschke 2003

Trutz Haase Social & Economic Consultant

Comparison of Relative Deprivation Scores 1991, 1996 and 2002

 For the country as a whole:

Virtually no differences in the distribution of relative deprivation 1991-2002  Only Exception: 

Dublin’s Inner City

The report Deprivation and its Spatial Articulation in the Republic of Ireland can be downloaded from the following web address:

Deprivation – Educational Equality and Intergenerational Class Mobility

To substantially enhance the intergenerational class mobility and educational equality will require a fundamental restructuring of the Irish educational system, notably a shift from the high expenditure on third level education towards greater expenditure at pre-school and primary levels.

The current initiatives in adult and community-based education are not only important in as much as they provide second chance education for cohorts that have been failed by the education system in the past,  they also constitute important services to communities and families where it is of utmost importance to enhance school retention amongst the next school-going generation, and  if properly evaluated, can provide the necessary pointers how to reform the mainstream education system in such a way as to make it more attractive and accommodating for those who are currently at risk of not achieving their full educational potential.

The Back to Education Initiative: Intent

The BTEI will make a major contribution to building the capacity of the formal education sector to meet the changing needs of individuals, communities and society. This will only happen if a clear agenda for change in how the initiative is perceived, planned, delivered and evaluated is implemented from the outset.

The top priorities of the BTEI part time programme are to address:  The low literacy levels of the Irish adult population;  The large numbers of Irish adults (1.1.m aged 15-64) who have not completed upper second-level education, of whom 529,600 have not completed lower second-level;  The inflexibility of the Irish education system, with its predominant emphasis on full-time provision: time specific entry and exit opportunities;  The difficulties in combining family, personal and work responsibilities with learning opportunities; (DE&S: Circular Letter ‘Back to Education Initiative, 2002)

Key Challenges in the Delivery and Evaluation of Adult and Community-based Education

The immense variety in the Projects with regard to: 

the target groups involved

the kind of disadvantage(s) experienced

the contexts within which the projects operate

The generally local focus of the Projects involved: 

Projects tend to be overwhelmed by the task they face

Projects tend to focus on the innovative delivery of services but more emphasis is needed for the systematic evaluation of their work in a comparative setting

Evaluation will be of utmost importance in an environment based on increasingly evidence-based policy formulation.

Key Questions that have (largely) been addressed


How do we define educational disadvantage and what is its relationship to wider social and economic inequalities?


Which social groups are facing particular barriers to education and suffer as a result of this?


What are the specific needs of each of these groups and with regard to each educational setting?


What strategies can be devised to assist these groups in overcoming the barriers to education?

Strategies (general)

Enhancing Access (Access, Skills, Confidence, Awareness) Outreach work Initial learning activities

Improved Delivery (Content, Participation, Certification) Content relevance Flexible provision Availability of skilled tutors Multiple Intelligence approach Accreditation

Support Services Guidance Transport Allowances Creche facilities / elder care Literacy Language tuition (Note: List only indicative, not meant to be comprehensive)

The Paths towards Greater Educational Inclusion



Difficult family situations

Pre-school and Primary Education

Secondary Education Skills Further Education

Disabilities Confidence Ethnic minorities


Target Groups


Dimensions to be addressed

Community –based / Adult Education

Lifelong Learning Educational Institutions and Strategies re Access, Delivery & Support Structures

Key Questions that need to be addressed now

How can we measure improvements in access to education in the context of the existing initiatives?

How can we measure advances in terms of access to the labour market / access to information / improvements in quality of life as a result of participation in the projects/initiatives?

What lessons can be learned from the projects/initiatives in order to improve the access of these groups to mainstream (adult) education provision?

How can auditing mechanisms be devised for the equality-proofing of wider (adult) education measures?