Educational Disadvantage Centre

Volunteering in the EDC



  Due to Covid 19, volunteering activities within the Educational Disadvantage Centre have been suspended. 

Volunteering as always been considered an important ingredient with regards to citizenship and to foster cooperation between community projects and the EDC. To this end, the Centre coordinates and facilitates both a homework club and support in conversational Irish, all on campus, in conjunction with student volunteers across all programmes. Below are the activities that have traditionally taken  place within the EDC

Sports 4 Success is an innovative Mentor Programme for primary level pupils operating at various third level institutes throughout the country. The Programme uses the medium of sport to encourage a change in attitudes to learning while improving self-esteem and social skills. The issues of education, health, physical ability, life skills, and social skills are collectively addressed through the medium of sport. The pupils are invited onto the campus at St. Pat's on an after-school programme which includes a meal at the canteen, homework support and some sporting activity.

It was founded by John McCarthy a former Maths and Science teacher from Limerick. He spent 11 years in Moscow during the end of the Cold War period as founder of a very large retail and trading company. For many years John has had a keen interest in sports and has been an active participant in Gaelic games, soccer, rugby and athletics. After returning to Ireland from Moscow, John set up his own consultancy business for Eastern Europe. In September 2000, John drew on his past experience in Education and Sport and established Sports 4 Success. John was one of the awardees for entrepreneur of the year in 2005 by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland for his work with Sports 4 Success. Today John is involved in 31 different schools throughout the country.

Run by the Educational Disadvantage Centre, Institute of Education, DCU, Sports 4 Success is an after schools’ education programme for pupils who are attending a local DEIS school. Wednesday afternoons 1.30 to 3.00pm, the club is held on St Patrick's Campus. A group of up to 20 Junior Infants, Senior Infants and 1st Class boys attend the club weekly, attended to by DCU student volunteers. Coordinated by the Administrator of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, the initiative is open to student volunteers based on St Patrick’s Campus

A second aim of the programme is to encourage pupils from areas experiencing disadvantage to consider third level education as a life choice. Spending some time within a college environment and with third level students allows the pupils an insight into college life, which removes any mystery associated with third level education. The programme also provides the pupil with a role model within a third level environment, which might otherwise not be available to him/her. The emphasis is on learning as a fun experience, and both participants and mentors have found this innovative method of teaching a very rewarding experience.

From the point of view of the Educational Disadvantage Centre, a third aim of the programme is to allow student teachers to gain an insight into the needs of pupils and particularly to develop an awareness of the needs of pupils in areas of disadvantage.

The aim of the Programme is to provide an opportunity for pupils from local schools to visit a third level environment and encourage them to consider third level education as part of their own future. For the students of DCU, it provides an opportunity to develop your skills in dealing with children, in preparation for your future careers as teachers or elsewhere. It provides a particular opportunity to build relationships with children who may be experiencing educational disadvantage.


The Programme is divided into three 30-minute sections:

  • 30 minutes playing sport
  • Hot food break for pupils and mentors at the canteen
  • The pupils spend the final 30 minutes working on their homework or work sheets supported by their mentors.


Your role in the visits is to act as a mentor for the pupils, on a very casual basis. The idea is to provide a mentor who is not in a position of authority to engage their interest in education. Tell the kids about what it's like to go to college, why you decided to choose your course of study, let them know about what college life in general. You will find the kids will be anxious to let you know all about their lives at school as well. This should be a good learning experience in terms of finding out what makes children respect particular teachers. At the homework section the pupils can work with their own homework or the worksheets provided, your role is to offer support with this work. The class teacher will be on hand throughout the visit to lend support if needed and you can call Valerie should anything go pear shaped! A tour of the college will also be organised for the pupils on their final visit.


  • The Library
  • The Resource Centre
  • The Auditorium
  • The Students Union
  • and the Gym

Your role here is to show them around your college. 


It's important that the experience is an enjoyable one for everyone involved, so if you have any questions or difficulties or suggestions over the course of the Programme, please get in touch with the Educational Disadvantage Centre, Valerie on Ext.9276


  • Think about what you can do to encourage children of lesser sporting ability to engage in the sport section.
  • If a plan changes, e.g. no homework to do, use the worksheets or art materials that will be left in the Séomra Caidrimh.
  • Engage with the children; tell them about yourself and your experience of college life.
  • Break them into small groups for the homework session; we have enough volunteers to give full-on attention.
  • Be aware if the other children are excluding any child and do your best to include him.
  • Scatter yourselves among the children during the food break; part of the dynamic of the programme is to engage with the children and show them your view of college life


Principal Pat Courtney

On Thursday 27th November 2017 Sport 4 Success  involved eighteen 1st Class St Vincent’s boys in a 'colouring-in' competition focusing on ‘I want to be a ... when I grow up'.  The event was in connection with College Awareness Week and although the boys are probably the youngest participants in College Awareness week, it is never too early to plant the idea of college being an option. Pictured with the boys is Pat Courtney, Principal of St Vincent’s JNS.


Students at St Vincent's BNS 2014

On Monday April 28th 2014, the student volunteers with Sport 4 Success were invited to St Vincent's BNS by Principal Pat Courtney to receive commendations for their work throughout the year.

In his speech to the students, Pat praised their dedication to the programme and emphasised the hugely positive effects this had on the boys; he said "...our pupils have many obstacles to overcome in their learning and need a lot of support. The Sport 4 Success programme provided structured opportunities for our pupils to participate in learning and social activities. The programme was an outstanding success thanks to the preparation, skills, enthusiasm and commitment of the Sport 4 Success volunteers who worked so hard to build bonds of friendship with our pupils. You made our pupils feel valued and capable throughout all the activities".

Certificates of attendance and participation were distributed to the boys, everyone of whom had attended the programme throughout the year.

s4s 2014

At St Vincent's BNS

S4S boys with certs

Boys from St Vincent's BNS

The Educational Disadvantage Centre’s (EDC) student volunteer Sport 4 Success project completed its final session for this academic year on Monday 31st March 2014. Started by the EDC in 2004, the homework club has worked with hundreds of children from various DEIS schools around the city over the last ten years. For the last few years, the EDC has worked with St Vincent’s Boys’ National School in North William Street, Dublin 1. This past year has seen every boy in the school getting an opportunity to come onto campus and work with the College’s volunteer students. Each Monday the boys are brought to the college by bus, they spend time doing physical activities, outdoors weather permitting, attending to their homework with their mentors and enjoying a hot lunch. They are then returned to their school.

S4S parachute

'Take a parachute and jump!'

This year, twelve volunteer students from the College have worked and engaged with the boys who are each week accompanied by teachers, SNAs and the School Completion Programme worker. The commitment and enthusiasm of all the adults, teachers and College students, working with Sport 4 Success is truly remarkable and everyone gets something from the experience. On Monday April 28th, the volunteer students have been invited to St Vincent’s school for a ceremony where they will be presented with certificates by the principal, Pat Courtney. The pupils of the school will in turn be presented with awards by Valerie McLoughlin, administrator of the Educational Disadvantage Centre and coordinator of Sport 4 Success, acknowledging their participation and attendance. It is envisaged that as many of the boys’ parents as can make it will also be there.

The EDC extends its sincere thanks to all of the volunteers who have given their time and energy to this initiative over the years, especially over this past year.

Xmas S4S

Christmas 2013

Sport 4 Success finished its first semester with a party in the canteen for the boys and their mentors - nobody went home empty-handed!



Sport 4 Success continues with boys from St Vincent's Junior National School in Nth William Street. It is envisaged that every boy in the school will attend the after school club on the St Patrick's College campus over the academic year 2013-2014. Each week up to 20 boys, along with two of their teachers, come to the College for fun, games, homework and a hot meal. They are mentored by 14 St Patrick's BA students who give an hour and a half of their time each Monday afternoon.

awards 2012

S4S Award Ceremony 2012

First, there was an award ceremony with certificates of attendance and contribution handed out to the boys by three of the Pat’s volunteers, BA students Alanna Marron, Nathan Unwin and Fergal Donegan. Pat Courtney then addressed the boys and their parents about the importance of education, using his and the volunteers’ progression from Infant Class to getting a degree in a college like St Patrick's as living examples; Valerie McLoughlin, coordinator of the afterschool homework support and sports programme for the Educational Disadvantage Centre, thanked the St. Vincent’s teachers and the College volunteers for their cooperation and enthusiasm.  The link teacher with St Patrick's, Sinéad Lambe, completed her MEd with the Educational Disadvantage Centre in 2011.

S4S 2012

S4S 2012

After the ceremony, the little visitors and their parents had dinner in the College canteen.

S4S with vols 2011

Sport 4 Success 2011

"I think participating in S4S was a great opportunity for me to experience how to relate to children who have different backgrounds and it also encouraged me more to want to become a Primary School teacher myself. Even though in the DEIS school it can be challenging I also feel it can be even more rewarding when you see the children improving so much".

s4s 2011

Sport 4 Success 2011

"I gained a better understanding of how the children act and the way their relationship between each other works".

"Enjoyable, worthwhile for both the students and the children".

"I have gained more confidence in explaining and teaching".

"I always leave with a really good feeling after the day".

Holy Spirit BNS 2010

Holy Spirit BNS boys in 2010

The 'lads' from Holy Spirit BNS at Sports 4 Success with their teacher Clare (on the far right) and Pat's students Kimberley, Aisling and Annie

The Challenger Programme was set up by Northside Partnership in 1995. It provides structured supports for students and their parents from 6th class to 6th year to help students:

Transfer from 6th class into secondary school

Prepare for their Junior Certificate

Complete their Leaving Certificate

Northside Partnership and The Educational Disadvantage Centre, Institute of Education, DCU, have teamed up with Bachelor of Education students working with pupils from the partner schools. Each week for six weeks, more than 40 pupils come onto the St Patricks’ campus for oral Irish tuition from DCU’s IoE 1st and 2nd year student teachers. 

Every year, the Partnership provides support to a total of 200 students from five partner schools. As students complete their secondary education they are able to offer 40 new students a place on the programme each year. Challenger parents are offered a further education programme together with the supports provided to their children. Northside Partnership and The Educational Disadvantage Centre, DCU, IoE, St Patrick’s Campus have teamed up for the last three years with Bachelor of Education students working with pupils from the partner schools. Each week for six weeks, more than 40 pupils have come onto the Pat’s campus for oral Irish tuition from the Pat’s 1st and 2nd year student teachers. 

Coordinator of the Challenger Programme Northside is Jeannette Beirnes from the Northside Area Partnership

Tusla and the EDC have teamed up to provide homework support in three emergency accommodation hubs: The Townhouse and Horizon House on Gardiner Street run by Focus Ireland, and Crosscare's facility in Mater Dei, Clonliffe Road. IoE students offered homework support two evenings a week to the children of all ages living in these hubs. Deborah Chemere of Tusla is the Administrator of this initiative.