Validating school-based measures of educational disadvantage in Ireland




student diversity, PISA, socio-economic measures, deprivation index, Ireland


Reducing the socio-economic achievement gap is a key goal of education policy internationally. Since 2017, the stated intention in Ireland is to use the Pobal HP Deprivation Index to identify schools serving high proportions of disadvantaged students. In spite of this, little published research has compared the performance of the HP index to richer survey measures from large-scale educational assessments or examined its association with educational achievement at primary or second level. This paper aims to assess the validity and fitness for purpose of the HP index for use in identifying schools serving high concentrations of socio-economically disadvantaged students. Analyses draw on Ireland’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 dataset matched with administrative data. Findings show a strong correlation between school-average HP and other socio-economic measures examined. However, about one-in-five schools are identified as potential ‘false positives’ or ‘false negatives’ when school-average HP is used for identification purposes. Also, school-average HP explains less variance in reading achievement than other variables considered. Conclusions recognize the benefits of the HP index but emphasize the need for ongoing examination of the most appropriate methods of identification.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Lorraine Gilleece, Educational Research Centre

Lorraine Gilleece is a research fellow at the Educational Research Centre (ERC), Dublin, Ireland. She currently oversees work on educational disadvantage at the Centre and the evaluation of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) program. She also has responsibility for the ERC’s work on the development of an evaluation framework for teachers’ professional learning. Her research interests center on using large-scale assessment data to explore equity in education.

Gráinne McHugh, Educational Research Centre

Gráinne McHugh is a research associate at the Educational Research Centre (ERC), Dublin, Ireland. She is currently the National Research Coordinator for TIMSS 2023 (Grade 4). Prior to joining the ERC in May 2020, she worked as a post-primary teacher of music and mathematics in Ireland.




How to Cite

Gilleece, L., & McHugh, G. (2022). Validating school-based measures of educational disadvantage in Ireland. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (169).