'The strategic priority now is to expand the scale and impact of the programme, to strengthen IT within existing communities and to expand it where there is educational disadvantage'
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Two years after launching its highly successful Aspire2 student support programme for schools in areas experiencing educational disadvantage, engineering and project management company DPS Group is aiming to expand the programme to more schools by attracting more corporate partners.

The vision of the Aspire2 programme is to redress the systemic inequality in Irish education by directly supporting students in second-level schools in areas of educational disadvantage. The primary aim is to assist students in these areas to reach their full potential and increase their prospects of completing the Leaving Certificate.

The programme is supported by a number of partners in Dublin and Cork, including:

  • University College Dublin
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • Institute of Technology Tallaght
  • Maynooth University
  • STEPS programme at Engineers Ireland
  • University College Cork
  • Cork Institute of Technology

The main focus of support is on students from the start of fifth year to the completion of the Leaving Certificate and so far five cohorts of students in each of the six schools involved with Aspire2 are being supported. Aspire2 began in 2015 with four schools: St Aidan’s Community College and St Patrick’s College in Cork, and Kylemore College and St Dominic’s Secondary School in Dublin. Support from Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI) allowed Aspire2 to expand its programme this year to two other schools, North Presentation in Cork and Rosary College, Crumlin, Dublin.

So what does Aspire2 do?


Aspire2 provides funding and direct assistance to the schools, which use the financial support to fund a range of initiatives that reflect the vision of the programme including:

  • Additional tuition and supervised study
  • Personal development and motivational workshops
  • Cultural and extra-curricular activities

The programme also provides additional supports for students including a mentoring programme, work experience placements, and facilitates the engagement and active participation of both students and parents in programme planning and promotion through youth advisory panels and parent forums.

Funding Aspire2


DPS Group director Michael Mulhall has been directly involved with Aspire2 since its inception and believes the programme has been a great success: “DPS has committed €250,000 in direct funding to Aspire2 and a core element of the programme is the student mentoring programme.

“I am delighted that more than 60 of our own staff in our Dublin and Cork offices have volunteered their own time to act as student mentors and this mentoring has been rated very positively by the students,” Mulhall said.

“Aspire2 has been very successful in its first two years. The programme has funded a wide range of academic and personal development activities. The first cohorts of students sat the Leaving Certificate in the summer of 2017.

“In each of the initial four participating schools, these students have achieved higher attendance levels, higher rates of course completion, improved results in the Leaving Certificate, and an increase in the number progressing to third-level education.

(L to R) Scholarship students Emma Daly, Alexandra O'Meara, Jessicca Walsh and Janice McGarry, Aspire2 project manager

L-R: Scholarship students Emma Daly, Alexandra O’Meara, Jessicca Walsh and Janice McGarry, Aspire2 project manager

“That success is not just down to the finance DPS has provided. It is also a reflection of the commitment and trust of all concerned – the schools, teachers, parents, the access departments in UCD, Trinity College, IT Tallaght, UCC, Cork IT, Maynooth University, the STEPS programme at Engineers Ireland and our own staff who have acted as mentors and other stakeholders – and not least the students themselves who have embraced the Aspire 2 concept so wholeheartedly,” Mulhall said.

He added, however, that while Aspire2 has been a success, the programme has been limited to the six schools that are now involved. “The inequality being targeted is widespread, particularly in urban areas, and the vision of Aspire2 will only be achieved if we can expand the programme dramatically. This will require the participation and support of additional sponsoring companies.

“The strategic priority now is to expand the scale and impact of the programme, to strengthen it within existing communities and to expand it to other communities where there is educational disadvantage. To achieve this, we are seeking corporate partners who subscribe to the vision and values of Aspire 2 and who are willing to commit time and resources to redressing the systemic inequality in Irish education.”

Corporate partners contributing


Corporate partners, he said, can make valuable contributions to the realisation of this vision in any or all of the following ways:

  • Providing a team of student mentors from within its own organisation
  • Providing short work experience placements for students
  • Funding new support initiatives in existing schools
  • Providing financial support to extend the programme to other schools
  • Participating as full partners in driving the future development of the programme

The experience and co-operation of existing partners will be available to provide advice and support in relation to all of the above and to facilitate successful integration as full partners in the programme. “We’ve learnt a lot since we launched Aspire2 – what works and what doesn’t work – and we’d be more than happy to provide whatever help is needed to any company who would like to become involved,” Mulhall said.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/aspire-launch.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/aspire-launch-300x300.pngJames HarringtonNewsDublin,education,STEPS
Two years after launching its highly successful Aspire2 student support programme for schools in areas experiencing educational disadvantage, engineering and project management company DPS Group is aiming to expand the programme to more schools by attracting more corporate partners. The vision of the Aspire2 programme is to redress the systemic...