Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Inner City Schools Survey.

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

7 Mr. Byrne asked the Minister for Education if her attention has been drawn to the survey of inner city schools undertaken by the Dublin inner city teachers group which showed that nearly a quarter of the children in these schools have serious learning, behavioural or psychological problems; the steps she intends to take to address these problems; the steps she intends to take to provide resources for these schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I have recently received a request from the inner-city teachers' group to meet me to discuss the survey. The letter was dated 26 June and I received it within the last two weeks. I have indicated in reply that I will be happy to meet them and have asked my office to make arrangements for the meeting.

The Government's programme of special schemes for national schools serving disadvantaged areas has enabled assistance to be given to many schools in the Dublin inner city. These measures include the appointment of additional teachers and the provision of financial assistance for the purchase of books and equipment, the promotion of homeschool liaison, special in-service training for teachers, the relief of school debts, the printing and issuing of materials, purchase of computers for certain schools and the provision of finance for equipment for pre-school facilities for travellers' children.

This year the fund available for the scheme of financial assistance for disadvantaged schools in general has been trebled to £1.5 million. I will shortly be in a position to announce a comprehensive package of initiatives for schools serving disadvantaged areas which will come into operation in September.

I welcome the Minister's response, but will she agree that one solution to the cycle of poverty and alienation felt by these inner city communities is through education and that the resources must be provided or we will end up with more streets where gardaí fear to tread? The neglect of these areas of concentrated poverty has reached frightening proportions and can only end up in confrontation with the forces of law unless she does something quickly. She might be interested in the comments of school children in the city who say, "I left school——

Sorry, Deputy Byrne. The Deputy must know that quotations in Question Time are not in order.

The Minister will be aware of the report in a newspaper where children being interviewed suggested that school was stupid, it was not getting to them, it had no meaning in their lives. This is——

I think the Deputy has made his point effectively.

This must be addressed very very quickly——

The Deputy is making a statement now.

——in more than one area of the inner city.

The teachers serving the inner city area are very professional and seek to do a very good job for the children in their care. The comments the Deputy is giving are from some newspaper and I know nothing about the children referred to, but children of their very nature will always feel a little like that about school. The teachers are very professional and do a very good job in these inner city schools. For many young people education is the channel through which they are hoping to better themselves and have a better life. Often the ills of society in general are brought into the classroom, and the teacher must cope with that as well as everything else. I hope to meet the inner city teachers within the next few weeks and I will be interested in what they say. In the meantime the fund has been trebled enabling certain measures to be put in place in September.

I am sure the Minister is aware that it was these same great, highly professional teachers who produced this report that 24 per cent of the children they are teaching have severe learning problems. I am sure the Minister is also aware that in the recent curriculum review body report, Dr. Murphy in reservation No. 1 said that among 12 year olds, there was 17 per cent illiteracy. The Minister in her reply said that new teachers had been appointed. How many were appointed, since only one-third of national schools have a remedial teacher?

Since last November-December 95 extra teachers were appointed to disadvantaged schools.

That applies to the whole country.

I do not have the number appointed to the inner city but I will have that information supplied.

Would the Minister agree that in areas such as Dublin inner city where there is a high level of deprivation and poverty and consequent education problems, we need to urgently extend the school psychological services? The Minister has introduced pilot projects which need to be urgently extended. There are various services available in these areas but they are not properly coordinated. An initiative from the Minister's Department to co-ordinate these services is also very important.

One of the points which will be dealt with in the measures to be put in place in September is a level of co-ordination between the various social agencies serving people in this area. Deputy Byrne's question related, naturally, to his own constituency, to the survey which he highlighted here and to the group I will meet. However, throughout the country there are areas of rural and urban deprivation and these will have to be addressed as well.

I am delighted that the Minister is prepared to meet the group. We know what the group are saying, it is that they need extra funding for their schools and the provision of psychological support services.

I forgot to reply to Deputy O'Shea on the psychological support services and I apologise for that. Pilot projects are in operation. The psychological service and the group monitoring them, composed of management and teachers have recommended that the pilot project run for a three year period and after evaluation it should be implemented.