Educational Disadvantage Centre

EDC News 2009/10

EDC News 2010 / 2009



Paul Downes was an invited speaker at the 'Health and Welfare in the Nordic and Baltic States' seminar at University College London on Friday 26th November 2010. His presentation was entitled Social Exclusion, Ethnicity and HIV in Estonia: A Case for a Visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health?


On November 12th, Paul Downes was an invited speaker at the wider network meeting of the Regional Education Network, an initiative of the Northside Partnership. His presentation was on the merits of a holistic approach to combating educational disadvantage, using the Familiscope model as particular reference. His paper was entitled A Community Based Multidisciplinary Psychological Support Service for the Northside Partnership Area: Building on the Familiscope, Ballyfermot Model of Early Intervention and Prevention


The full programme, including speeches and presentations, can be viewed here.

The Belgian EU Presidency Conference, Breaking the cycle of disadvantage – Social inclusion in and through education, took place on September 28 and 29 at the University of Ghent, Belgium. Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, St. Patrick's College, was an invited speaker at the Conference Workshop, Pupils at risk of social exclusion: overcoming school failure and reducing school drop out. The other speakers at the workshop were Adam Pokorny, Head of the Unit on School Education and Comenius, European Commission, Directorate-General, Education and Culture, and Fred Voncken, Director for Early School Leaving in the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Netherlands. The Workshop was chaired by Jean Gordon, Director of the European Institute of Education and Social Policy, Paris. The Workshop discussants were Maria Hrabinska, Expert, Policy Reporting, European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) and Michael Stark, Senior Official of the British Government, until recently Deputy Director, UK Department of Education and Head of Policy on narrowing gaps in achievement of disadvantaged pupils in English schools.

Dr. Downes' presentation 'It's the heart stupid'. Emerging priority issues for prevention of early school leaving: A solution-focused approach' argued that recent influential documents such as the OECD's Ten Steps to Equity in Education (2007), Overcoming School Failure (2010) and the European Commission's (2009) document on Progress towards the Lisbon objectives in Education and Training have neglected a cluster of issues pertaining to early school leaving regarding pupils' emotions and the need for multidisciplinary community based emotional support services working in schools.


The 2010 Education Fair took place in Ballymun Civic Centre on Thursday 9th of September. Sean Haughey TD, Minister for Lifelong Learning, officially opened the fair in conjunction with special guest, President of DCU, Brian MacCraith.

The Ballymun Education Fair was organised by the Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership to promote learning, education and training opportunities for both adults and young people right in the heart of their own community. Forty organisations such as DCU and Coláiste Dhúlaigh were in attendance providing information on what education opportunities are available to people from the Ballymun Whitehall Area. Valerie McLoughlin, the administrator of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, is a member of the Lifelong Learning Subgroup of the Education Working Group which is the driver of this annual education fair.

Guest speaker from Ballymun Ronnie Byrne spoke about her experience of returning to education after 60 years away from the classroom in an enthusiastic and energetic way and highlighted how it has changed her life and also how accessible it is for anyone.

Minister for Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey TD, spoke to attendees as well as presenting local organisations and individuals with awards in recognition of their continued and committed work in promoting education and lifelong learning within the area. Roisín Shortall TD also spoke and presented FETAC Level 5 awards for Childcare to individuals who had completed the programme


The Educational Disadvantage Centre in the College has been centrally involved in the completion of two recent reports, one on the theme of community based after school projects and one on initial assessment instruments and processes internationally for those who have previously experienced alienation from the formal educational system.

Ivers, J., McLoughlin, V. and Downes, P. (2010). Current Steps and Future Horizons for CASPr. Review of CASPr North-East Inner City After Schools Project. North Inner City Dublin: Community After Schools Project (CASPR).

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This strategic evaluation of North Inner City Dublin's, Community After School Project (CASPr) includes a review of the international literature to highlight the key role of community after-school projects in engaging with children and families at heightened risk of alienation from the school system. This report was launched in the Mansion House on June 9th by the then Lord Mayor, Emer Costello.

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Carrigan, J. & Downes, P. (with Byrne, I.) (2010). Is there more than what's the score? Exploring needs and skills checking for literacy as part of a holistic initial assessment process in a lifelong learning society.

This evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of initial assessment instruments and processes internationally concludes with recommendations regarding key dimensions of a holistic needs-and-skills-check process to engage with adults returning to education. The initial assessment report was funded by the Department of Education and Science (now Skills).

Copies of both reports are available from the Resource Library of the Educational Disadvantage Centre in St. Patrick's College

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On 8 June, a group of 14 Psychology of Education students and their Professor, Bruce Mortenson visited St Patrick's College. The group is on a study visit to Ireland with regard to learning about DEIS schools and supports for children at risk of early school leaving. Dr Paul Downes, Director of the College's Educational Disadvantage Centre facilitated a seminar for the group and gave a presentation entitled, Key issues in DEIS schools in Ireland: A reference point for the US experience??.

The Educational Disadvantage Centre also arranged for the group to visit a primary school in the DEIS programme, Francis St., Dublin 8, with the kind assistance of its Principal, M Ed graduate Fiona Collins.


A celebration event for the Dundalk Incredible Years Programme took place in Dundalk Institute of Technology on Wednesday 26th May 2010. The programme focuses on positive strategies for both parents and teachers in engaging with children. It has been established in Dundalk by the local school completion programme, in conjunction with 8 local schools. Dr. Paul Downes was an invited speaker at the event.

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Members of the Expert Advisory Group to the Joint
Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science


The report of the Joint Committee in Education and Skills on Early School Leaving was launched at Leinster House on Tuesday 25 May 2010. Entitled Staying in Education: A New Way Forward - School and Out-Of-School Factors Protecting Against Early School Leaving, the report identifies the reasons behind early school leaving and offers solutions. The report was produced by Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames on behalf of the Committee with assistance from Dr Jude Cosgrove of the Educational Research Centre. Launching the report, Paul Gogarty, TD, Chairman of the Joint Committee, described it as a timely and important contribution in an area of fundamental importance. He congratulated the ERC and the College on its contribution and on its initiatives in the area of access and disadvantage. The members of the expert group which assisted in the preparation of the report included Dr Peter Archer, Dr Paul Downes, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, and Dr Jude Cosgrove.

John Walshe's article in the Irish Independent on Monday 31st May 2010 can be accessedhere


The European Commission's Directorate-General for Education and Culture held meetings of an invited external Expert Group on Lifelong Learning on February 5 and March 25, 2010 in Brussels. Dr Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, is a member of this group and attended both meetings. Other members of the Expert Group are from: the University of Florence; Munich University; University of Lille and the European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning; Roskilde University, Norway; the Slovenian Ministry of Education and Sport; the University of Nottingham; the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network; TARKI Social Research Institute, Budapest; Danube University Krems, Austria, and the University of Malta.

A key focus of these meetings has been on identifying critical factors and good practice throughout the European Union with regard to implementation of Lifelong Learning Strategies to inform future developments for EU Commission policy in this area.


Dr. Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, St. Patrick's College, was an invited speaker at the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) seminar, Mapping the Landscape, at the Hilton Hotel, Kilmainham, on March 23rd 2010. The seminar's key objective is to inform national strategic planning for integrated services across the NEWB, National School Completion Programme, Home-School-Community Liaison Scheme and Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers.

In his presentation, Needs, Policies and Practice for System Level Intervention: Key issues for the next era in moving beyond educational disadvantage, Dr. Downes presented research findings from a range of reports from the Educational Disadvantage Centre to inform future national strategic policy making of the NEWB. Other invited speakers were, Dr. Peter Archer, Director of the Educational Research Centre, and Dr. Emer Smyth and Dr. Selina McCoy of the ESRI.


Dr. Downes was an invited speaker for the 25th Annual Conference of the National Parents' Association for Vocational Schools and Community Colleges, Free Education: At What Price? on March 12th/13th 2010, in the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone. His presentation, System level reform at Post Primary: Future steps, developed the strategic implications of key themes raised across research reports of the Educational Disadvantage Centre. The conference was opened by Mary O' Rourke TD, former Minister for Education. The other speakers were Cearbhall O' Dalaigh, former Deputy Chief Inspector of the Department of Education and Science, Rose Tully, National Parents' Council Post-Primary PRO and Jim Moore, President of the National Parents' Council Post-Primary.


On the 24th February 2010, Dr. Catherine Maunsell, was invited to speak to the University Framework Implementation Network (FIN), a network jointly established by the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland NQAI and the Irish Universities Association IUA with a view to informing the upcoming research agenda of the network. Dr. Maunsell's presentation centred on EU and national lifelong learning policies and practice and drew on findings from the EU 6th Framework Research Project LLL2010 currently being undertaken through the Educational Disadvantage Centre (EDC). Other speakers on the day included, Professor John Scattergood (Chair), Dr. Jim Murray (NQAI), Mr. Seamus Fox (DCU), Mr. Tony Donoghue (IBEC), Mr. Declan Courell (St. Angela's), Ms. Irene Sheridan (C.I.T).


The European Commission's Directorate-General for Research held a meeting of invited external experts regarding social inequalities in Europe on January 18, 2010 in Square De Meeus, Brussels. Dr. Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, was one of the seven invited experts and gave a presentation - A Systems Level Focus on Overcoming Social Inequality through Education and Community Development: Early Intervention and Access - based on a range of national and international research conducted by the Educational Disadvantage Centre.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Directorate-General for Regional Policy, Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (SANCO), the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA), as well as by representatives from the Directorate-General for Research. The policy themes explored in the presentations and subsequent discussions were with a view to informing future EU Commission policy on social inequalities for the incoming Commission team.




The Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership's conference Miss School, Miss Out, Missed Opportunities took place in the Axis Theatre, Ballymun on Monday 30th November 2009. Guest speakers included Dr Paul Downes, Director of St. Patrick's College Educational Disadvantage Centre; Dr Aisling Gillen, National Specialist Children's Services, Health Services Executive; Ms Nuala Doherty, Director of Educational Welfare Services, National Educational Welfare Board; Ms Eleanor McClorey, Chief Executive, Young Ballymun, Ms Marian Hackett, Ballymun Principals' Network and Principal of Holy Spirit GNS, Ballymun and Mary Brady, member of Ballymun Childcare Providers Partnership Network & Director of Tír na nÓg Early Years Service.

The Conference was chaired by Mr Fergus Finlay, CEO Barnardos, and Mr Pat Carey, Minister of State, Department of the Taoiseach and Government Chief Whip, officially launched the Ballymun School Attendance Initiative. Deputy Roisín Shortall, TD, Labour Party Spokesperson on Family and Social Affairs, provided a summation of the presentations.

Dr. Downes' presentation Family Involvement in Education in Ballymun, Research Study examined data on local parents' experiences of their children's preschool, primary and post primary schools, as well as their networks of social and emotional support, with a view to developing a range of policy recommendations.


The SIPTU-ASTI Centenary Seminar on Equality in Education "Springboard or Trap Door? Is Our Education System Making Our Children More or Less Equal ?" took place in Liberty Hall on Saturday 28th November 2009. Guest Speakers were Dr. Paul Downes, Director of the College's Educational Disadvantage Centre, Ms. Sheila Nunan, General Secretary of the INTO, and Professor Tom Collins, Vice-President for External Affairs, NUI Maynooth.

 The session was chaired by Mr. Joe Moran, President of the ASTI. Panel respondents included Mr. Mike Jennings, General Secretary of IFUT, with Mr. John White, General Secretary, ASTI, offering the opening address and Mr. Jack O'Connor, President of ICTU, General President, SIPTU, providing the closing remarks.

Dr. Downes' presentation Steps, Measures and Programmes for Equality emphasised the key role of the teachers' unions historically in developing initiatives for equality in education and argued that they need to play a leading part in driving future interventions in this area, specifically, regarding the need for a comprehensive national mental health strategy for contexts of disadvantage.


The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) launched its report on Child Literacy and Social Inclusion on November 11 2009 at the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare St., Dublin. Presentations were given by Mr. Fergus Finlay, Barnardos, Professor Áine Hyland and Dr. Maureen Gaffney.

A number of members of St. Patrick College's Education Department provided significant contributions to the report. Dr. Eithne Kennedy's research paper Improving Literacy in Disadvantaged Schools: Policy and Implementation Issues was commissioned for and presented to the NESF project team. The paper is published in full in the Supplementary Report on Child Literacy and Social Inclusion. Dr. Paul Downes was an advisor consulted by the NESF project team. He also provided initial and Post-Plenary meeting submissions from the College's Educational Disadvantage Centre. Dr. Catherine Maunsell offered a submission from the Quality Development of Out of School Services (QDOSS) network, of which the Educational Disadvantage Centre is a member. From Early Childhood Education, Dr. Elisabeth Dunphy and Dr. Philomena Donnelly provided individual submissions, and Dr. Maura O'Connor contributed at the Plenary meeting. Dr. Gerry Shiel, Dr. Peter Archer and Dr. Susan Weir from the Educational Research Centre in the College were also advisors consulted by the NESF project team.

The report is available at:

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Catherine Dooley (pictured centre) Research Fellow with the Educational Disadvantage Centre, participated in a week long Study Visit in the Gothenburg Region of Sweden. This Study Visit was organised jointly by the Education Service in Léargas and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, Cedefop, as part of the EU Transversal Programme. Bo-Göran Dahlberg, the Principal of Municipal Formal Adult Education in the City of Molndal was the Swedish Coordinator of the Study Visit on behalf of the Gothenburg Region of Local Authorities. Molndal is located next to Gothenburg city in the South-West of Sweden. The Study Visit took place between the 18th  and the 24th October 2009. Study Visits provide a forum for discussion and learning on themes of common interest around European and National priorities ensuring up-to-date information about education and training systems across Europe. The theme for this visit was Flexible Adult Education for Regional Growth and Development.

Adult Education Centers in Gothenburg city and in the Municipalities that surround it in the Gothenburg Region were visited. In Sweden they have highly developed Blended Learning methods, which allow adults to study in their own time or when convenient, using a variety of teaching methods. An Adult Open Learning Education Centre in Stenengsund where learning was 100% individualized was also visited; there are no lectures, quiet study areas are provided for participants and tutorials are used with a small group of participants occasionally. In relation to good practice to address educational disadvantage in Sweden, there is a course for teachers who work with Early School Leavers, which takes one year to complete and participants receive a certificate. In Ireland, a similar course would improve the support for Early School Leavers and enable educators to understand and cater for their particular needs more effectively.

The Study Visit involved networking and exchange of experience and Good Practice between Education and Vocational Training Specialists from 9 different countries; The Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, The Netherlands, Romania, UK, Ireland and the hosts Sweden.   Participants learned about practices and approaches in education in each other countries. Study Visits result in new contacts and inspire future project work and research between participating countries and therefore help to support policy development and cooperation at European level in lifelong learning and educational disadvantage. The Study Visit programme aims to develop insights into innovative ideas and practices adopted.

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The Executive Summary of the Dublin City Childcare Committee's School Age Childcare Report 2009 was launched on Wednesday 7th October 2009 by Mr Barry Andrews TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin.

Representing St Patrick's College's Educational Disadvantage Centre, were members of the Dublin City School Age Childcare Thematic Working Group (SACTWG), Dr. Paul Downes and Valerie McLoughlin. SACTWG served as the advisory body for the report.

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Emer Costelloe addressed the audience at the launch. The Executive Summary of the research piece examined the levels of provision of school age childcare and assessed gaps in service in Dublin City. Both the Executive Summary along with the complete research report can be downloaded from the DCCC website. Coverage in the Thursday 8th October's Irish Times can be viewed here.

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From 10–12 September 2009. Dr Catherine Maunsell and Catherine Dooley, EDC Research Fellow, facilitated workshops on international strategic priorities for access to lifelong learning for traditionally disadvantaged groups at the 9th Workshop of the EU Sixth Framework Project, Towards a Lifelong Learning Society, at the University of Nottingham. 

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An action packed Education Fair took place in Ballymun Civic Centre on Thursday 10th September 2009, from 9am-5pm. The Fair was officially opened by Minister for Lifelong Learning Seán Haughey TD with guest speakers from Ballymun sharing their experiences of learning with us. Ballymun Education Fair is organised by the Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership and aims to promote learning, education and training opportunities for both adults and young people of all ages right in the heart of their own community. 40 organisations, including the Access Office of St. Patrick's College, gave out information on what they offer and recruited for their upcoming courses.

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Book Exchange Scheme!!!!

After a very successful first outing, the Ballymun Book Exchange Scheme will continue as follows:

Where? Ballymun Civic Centre

When? First Thursday of the month

Time? 9.30 am to 1.30 pm

Even if you cannot go on the day, try to drop books in to the Ballymun Partnership office in the Ballymun Shopping Centre (Tesco)

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On Wednesday July 1st 2009, Dr. Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, St. Patrick's College, was an invited speaker for a meeting of the National Team of the Schools' Business Partnership as part of Business in the Community Ireland  (BITCI).

His presentation "BITCI - A Strategic Focus on Contexts of Disadvantage' outlined a range of priority themes for future work with postprimary schools, based on research of the Educational Disadvantage Centre in recent years.

Adding value to the Department of Education & Science 'School Completion Programme' the Schools' Business Partnership as part of Business in the Community Ireland  (BITCI) aims to positively impact on educational inclusion and address key issues in areas of educational disadvantage in Ireland. The programme does this by matching one post primary school with a large local business and engaging in various programmes. The target number of schools to be matched is 158 nationally and currently 150 are matched. Through the Schools' Business Partnership a menu of programmes has been developed to address key educational issues for these post primary schools across the country.

Catherine Dooley, a Research Fellow in the Educational Disadvantage Centre, has received a funding award from Leargas to travel to Sweden to participate in a Study Visit for Education and Vocational Training Specialists from 19th-23rd October 2009. The title of the study visit is "Flexible adult education for regional growth and development'. The visit is organised jointly by the Education Service in Leargas and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, Cedefop, as part of the EU Transversal Programme. The purpose of the study visit is to generate an exchange of experience and good practice between Ireland and Sweden and to support policy development and cooperation at European level in lifelong learning and educational disadvantage.


The Educational Disadvantage Centre is engaged in a two year, €300,000 funded, EU Tempus Project, to develop a Masters programme for the Psychology Department of the University of Prishtina, Kosova. As part of this project, the EDC Director, Dr. Paul Downes taught an intensive week- long course on Psychoanalysis to twenty Masters students of Psychology in the University of Prishtina, from June 1st to June 6th 2009.

The project has gathered a consortium of five European universities to assist the Psychology department of the University of Prishtina in the development of a new post-graduate curriculum and in the training of its staff members.  The Educational Disadvantage Centre will also be assisting with the design of the Educational Psychology Strand of the Masters Curriculum.

The consortium is headed by the Division of Psychology of the University of Bedfordshire, UK, and includes the Department of Education and Psychology of the University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic, the Department of Psychology of the University of Prishtina, Kosova, the Psychology department of the Catholic University, Milan, Italy, the Psychotherapy Department of the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology of Ludwig-Maximilliens University in Munich, Germany, as well as the Educational Disadvantage Centre, St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra.


On May 11th, Dr Paul Downes, Director of the Educational Disadvantage Centre in St Patrick's College, was a guest speaker at the Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership seminar. The Partnership intends to develop and implement a local framework that will support successful transitions from home to pre-school to primary to post primary school.

Other guest speakers at the AXIS Arts and Community Resource Centre Theatre, Ballymun, were Dr Hilary Fabian, Leader of Education and Childhood Studies at the North East Wales Institute, and Dr Mary O'Kane, Researcher with the Centre for Social and Educational Research in DIT and Lecturer in Child Development with the Open University.

Dr Downes' presentation, Reconceptualising transitions: The jolt in climate between primary and post-primary, argued that Bowlby's observations in developmental psychology of young children's defences of protest, despair and detachment offers a framework for understanding older children's reactions to the potentially alienating process of transition from primary to post primary.

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From January 29-31 2009, St Patrick's College hosted a project meeting for the research project LLL2010- Towards a Lifelong Learning Society in Europe: the Contribution of the Education System under the European Commission's 6th Framework Research Programme.

The participating institutions for this five year project are from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, Estonia, Belgium, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, The Russian Federation, Scotland and Slovenia, with the Educational Disadvantage Centre in St Patrick's Collegebeing the Irish consortium member. The project focuses on the contribution of the education system to the process of making lifelong learning a reality for all and its role as a potential agent for social inclusion within Europe.

The Educational Disadvantage Centre is responsible for coordinating subproject 5 across all the countries, a subproject focusing on developing systemic change to promote access to education for traditionally disadvantaged groups in each of these societies. Dr Pauric Travers, President of St Patrick's College, spoke at the opening of the project meeting to welcome all the participants.

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On January 29th 2009, the Educational Disadvantage Centre, Director Dr. Paul Downes

was a guest speaker at the IMPACT seminar on "Equality and Disadvantage in Education' in the Helix Gallery, Dublin City University. Dr. Downes gave a presentation entitled "Future Directions in Moving Beyond Educational Disadvantage', with Fergus Finlay, Barnardos, Dr. Dermot Stokes, Youthreach; Jillian Van Turnhout, Children's Rights Alliance and other guest speakers.

In Dr Downes presentation, he observed that unions have been a driving force historically in developing initiatives on overcoming disadvantage. He argued that there needs to be a renewed commitment on behalf of unions in the current economic climate to lobby for a holistic strategy to move beyond educational disadvantage. Based on a range of research reports from the Educational Disadvantage Centre, missing elements of such a strategy which he argued for prioritisation include: development of community based psychology services working also onsite in schools for prevention and early intervention; increased focus on literacy teaching skills for primary level and conflict resolution skills at secondary level for teacher inservice and preservice; a national out of schools service strategy and expansion of schools being open after hours as a community resource. Dr. Downes highlighted a need for reallocation of resources for a mental health strategy for contexts of educational disadvantage.