Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Innovation Fund will assist students who experience educational disadvantage

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 support they need to maximise their impact, is today making a final call for submissions to its new Education Fund, which is endorsed by the Department of Education and Skills. The closing date for applications is 24thFebruary 2017.

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 innovative 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, 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.

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., said: ‘’The Education Fund, from Social Innovation Fund Ireland aims to support innovative solutions that improve educational attainment and access to higher level institutions. Our Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training system the best in Europe within a decade, sets ambitious targets in this area, and this Fund will help us to achieve them. My Department is very supportive of this initiative, and we hope that individuals and groups with solutions to this social issue will submit applications to enable students across Ireland to access all educational channels.”

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 run its first ever Education Fund. We believe this new initiative 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. ‘’

All applications will be reviewed by Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s Education Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Professor Áine Hyland, Emeritus Professor of Education at University College Cork. The committee also includes: Bernard Kirk, Director of Galway Education Centre; Maura Grant was advisor to former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese and retired school principal; Dr Brian Fleming, retired school principal with over twenty-five years’ experience and author of “Irish Education 1922-2007”; and Martina Von Richter, Co-Founder of BiBo Life Skills.

Professor Áine Hyland, Chair of Education Advisory Committee, said: ‘’The very real educational challenges encountered by young people who grow up in poverty or disadvantage, or who live with a disability are well known. Research has shown that those young people who leave school without qualifications struggle to secure well paid jobs and the cycle of poverty is re-inforced. This is a serious social issue. To help tackle this, the Education Fund is primarily focused on supporting initiatives that will encourage students improve educational attainment at second level, and even complete it to gain entry to higher or further education.’’

The Education Fund is accepting applications from schools, charities, higher education institutions and other not-for-profit organisations that intervene at QQI levels 3-6. For more information, visit - www.socialinnovation.ie/our-programmes/education-fund