UCD and Zurich Ireland partner on national programme to address education inequality

Posted 26 October, 2021

  • Intervention-led programme will support 700 students across 21 DEIS schools across Ireland

University College Dublin in partnership with Zurich Ireland (Zurich) and the Z Zurich Foundation (ZZF) is working to address education inequality in Ireland.

The Power 2 Progress (P2P) project uses a sophisticated intervention-led approach to support senior cycle students of DEIS schools, helping them reach their full academic potential by providing expertise and much-needed resources.

DEIS schools across Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, and Wexford are involved with the programme, with some 700 students now receiving weekly tuition from UCD student teachers.

This tuition runs from September to December, and again from January to April, starting in 5th year of senior cycle and continuing into 6th year.

In addition to the tuition provided by UCD, as part of the programme Zurich is providing complementary mentoring and career guidance support.

Through this, schools have access to multidisciplinary experts providing interactive and motivational talks, as well as career planning sessions.

As part of the programme, and through a collaboration between the ZZF and Dell Ireland, participating students have access to a new laptop to facilitate remote based learning and engagement.

In some of the schools involved, 40% of pupils don't have access to a laptop.

"The high number of DEIS schools and their pupils that have joined the Power 2 Progress programme shows the true need for this kind of intervention initiative in Ireland,” said UCD President Professor Andrew J. Deeks.

“With the support and funding received from Zurich and the Z Zurich Foundation, Professor Harford and her colleagues can harness the transformative power of education to make a real difference to the lives of the students involved."

The P2P programme is run by Judith Harford, UCD Professor of Education, and Deputy Head of the UCD School of Education.

As part of the project, PhD research will be funded to examine the effectiveness of different intervention techniques with a view to inform future policy around addressing socio-economic disadvantage in the Irish educational system.

Professor Judith Harford, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris TD, and Dr Rachel Farrell and Amalia Fenwick

“We’re hugely excited to be collaborating with UCD on a programme as meaningful as Power 2 Progress because we believe it has the potential to positively transform the way in which we approach the challenge of education inequality in Ireland,” said CEO of Zurich Ireland, Anthony Brennan.

“While we are heavily committed to contributing positively to the communities in which we work and live, we also know that thriving communities are critical to a well-functioning economy and we expect this programme to help influence future education policy in Ireland, ensuring an informed, lasting and sustained benefit for generations to come.”

Currently, 21 DEIS schools are participating in the programme, and additional funding from Rethink Ireland is helping to expand the initiative to five more schools in counties Laois and Offaly.

DEIS schools were selected as the focus for the programme as these schools are located in communities where the socio-economic status of pupils is below the national average.

DEIS post-primary schools make up just over 27% of all post-primary schools in Ireland and account for just under 76,000 post-primary students.

They typically have lower levels of literacy, poorer attendance and lower attainment rates. Generally, these inequalities can persist into adulthood and impact health and career options affecting entire communities.

Commenting on the programme, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD said the initiative “offers practical solutions to improve equality in education”.

“Fostering inclusion and tackling inequalities in our education system are key pillars of my department’s mission, and it’s heartening to see UCD and Zurich come together to drive home that message.

“There are really exciting third-level education opportunities available to anyone who wants to pursue them, and many varied routes to preferred careers. I genuinely believe Power 2 Progress can help students understand all the options available to them and, ultimately, help them reach their undoubted potential.”

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations