Social Innovation Fund Ireland, a charity created by the Government to find and back the best social innovations in Ireland and provide them with the supports they need to maximise their impact, has today (Monday, 21st November) opened the application process for its new Education Fund.
The initiative aims to improve educational attainment and access to higher education for students affected by mental health issues, disability, or poverty and disadvantage. Successful applicants could, for example, have programmes that include student-centred learning opportunities, blended learning, 21st century skills - digital and other skills, or programmes that provide intensive personalised supports to students to enable them to succeed educationally.
According to the Department of Education and Skills’ Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 Strategy Statement, the retention rate for secondary school students from deprived areas is 82.7%, which is below the national norm of 90.2%. Currently, the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds progressing to Quality and Qualification Ireland (QQI) level six courses is remarkably low. Post-leaving certificate, the number of travellers in higher education is just 35.Only approximately 6% of students in higher education have disabilities.
Research has shown that those who leave secondary level education without qualifications struggle to secure well paid jobs and this can lead to poverty. Identifying this as a serious social issue, the Education Fund is primarily focused on supporting initiatives that work with students at second level or early third level, with the aim of encouraging students to complete second level, improve educational attainment, and gain entry to higher or further education, including University or Apprenticeships. Social Innovation Fund Ireland believes that the Fund will help develop innovative projects that have the ability to tackle disadvantage in education.
Social Innovation Fund Ireland, CEO, Deirdre Mortell said: “Education is a great equaliser, it is proven to offer a route out of poverty and perhaps, more importantly, a way to empower us in our lives. As a country, we can do more, and with this is mind, Social Innovation Fund Ireland is delighted to launch its first ever Education Fund. Early in 2016, we successfully launched THINKTECH, which attracted strong social enterprises that aim to improve Ireland through technology. Using this as a template, we are now embarking on a new initiative that we believe will enable students who are struggling to finish second level school to improve their grades, and enter and stay in third level education or apprenticeships.‘’
The Education Fund aims to bring together suitable organisations and to address these issues by:
Providing funds to those organisations who can provide evidence of having match funding for the duration of the proposed project
Convening annually to share learnings from the best projects
Providing projects with the opportunity to participate in a cluster evaluation
Providing projects with a platform to showcase their work at a closing event.
Applications will be reviewed by an Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Áine Hyland, Emeritus Professor of Education at University College Cork.
Social Innovation Fund Ireland is now accepting applications from schools, charities, higher education institutions and other not-for-profit organisations. Projects and applicants should be focused on addressing educational disadvantage at second level or early third level stages. Entrants should have secured private or philanthropic funding for the period of its proposed project and illustrate its need for matching funding from Social Innovation Fund Ireland. Deadline forapplications is 24th February 2017, and these can be made through Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s website - www.socialinnovation.ie/our-programmes/education-fund