UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre is currently involved in a three-year national research project, funded by the Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI), focusing on the evaluation of 10 projects which provide alternative education in Ireland. The core focus of this work is to identify successful models for scale/replication. Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI) was established by Government in 2015 to fill a gap in funding innovation for the non-profit sector. SIFI’s Education Fund was opened to projects focused on improving educational outcomes (at QQI Levels 3-6 from the National Framework of Qualifications) for those experiencing educational disadvantage arising from living in a disadvantaged area, socio-economic disadvantage, experiencing mental health or other health issues, or disability. Following a rigorous selection process 10 projects were chosen as recipients of the Award: eight of the projects are based in Dublin while the remaining two are based in Cork.
The overarching aim of the evaluation is “to investigate the extent to which practices and process utilised by awardees can serve as models of excellence in overcoming inequality in education”. To address this aim, SIFI set out the following set of objectives, which are designed:
1. To provide awardees with the data necessary for the appraisal of their organisation or programme;
2. To trace the benefit of awardee projects on their students and their progression towards QQI levels 3-6 and/or in relation to other project objectives in overcoming educational disadvantage;
3. To identify successful models for scale/ replication;
4. To suggest policy changes that might be desirable to overcome educational disadvantages.