There were positive similarities, but a number of inequalities reported.
A new report comparing the behaviour, aspirations and resources of students in DEIS and non-DEIS schools has found that while students from each type of school reported similar levels of positivity and wellbeing, there were differences between absence levels and learning resources in student homes.
The study, carried out by the Educational Research Centre, examined the school and home learning environments of 15-year-olds in DEIS and non-DEIS schools. Its findings focus on students’ attitudes, educational and career aspirations, and is reportedly based on data collected for the OECD’s PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment).
When it came to school learning environments, the report found that students from both school settings reported similar levels of positive feelings, self-belief and accessibility to a variety of extra-curricular activities, including sports, music and art clubs.
Reports of bullying were also at a similar level amongst students of both school settings.
However, unauthorised absences were more commonly noted in DEIS schools. 77 per cent of students in DEIS schools had principals who reported unauthorised absences as a learning issue, in comparison to 51 per cent in non-DEIS schools.
“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,” Dr Lorraine Gilleece, one of the report’s authors, told the Journal.
Drugs and alcohol were also reported by principals as a hindrance to learning for 22 per cent of students in DEIS schools, in comparison to just 7 per cent in non-DEIS schools.
“These findings confirm the need for the wellbeing framework, which is now even more important, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Gilleece added.
In terms of home learning environments, there was little difference between students of each school setting when it came to technological resources. A similar number of students from both school settings reported having access to a laptop, phone or tablet at home.
Yet students at DEIS schools reported less access to books at home, with one-quarter reporting that they had ten books or fewer at home. This differed to non-DEIS schools, where just one in ten students reported the same.
Students from DEIS schools were also less likely to have a parent or guardian with a degree-level qualification as just 31 per cent of students reported such, in comparison to the 52 per cent of students in non-DEIS schools who reported having a parent or guardian with a degree-level qualification.
Differences between the educational and career aspirations of students from both school settings were also apparent in the study’s findings. While 62 per cent of students in non-DEIS schools reported that they expect to obtain a degree-level qualification, less than half (45 per cent) of students in DEIS schools reported the same.
Minister for Education Norma Foley said the report’s positive findings in DEIS schools was a credit to the commitment of staff members.
Speaking to the Journal, she said: “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.”