I thank the Ceann Comhairle for affording me time to discuss an urgent matter, namely, the need for the Minister for Education and Skills to review a decision that has led to the suppression of the posts of the resource teacher for Travellers, RTT, and the rural co-ordinator for disadvantage at St. Mary's national school in Edgeworthstown, County Longford. The loss of these posts is detrimental to the continued successful provision of education to the children of Edgeworthstown and leaves the most vulnerable children in the school without essential supports. Furthermore, given the population explosion in Edgeworthstown — an increase of 68.4% since the 2006 census — there is urgent need for an increase in the funding provision for the built environment at the school.
St. Mary's is developing rapidly and is designated as DEIS rural. The school is the base for a rural co-ordinator for disadvantage covering three schools. The current enrolment at the school is 464 pupils, a marked increase from the 203 who were enrolled in 2005 when the service under DEIS was allocated.
According to budget 2011, rural co-ordinator for disadvantage posts were to be suppressed from September 2011. This would be untenable for St. Mary's national school, as making the most vulnerable children suffer would be to the detriment of the school and the community. Its rural co-ordinator visits homes, organises homework clubs, runs parenting courses in conjunction with the HSE, provides English language courses for parents who are not fluent and organises a range of afterschool activities, including drama, French, sport and crafts. The co-ordinator is also responsible for a range of in-school activities.
With an increased number of children from the Traveller community in the school, the projected suppression of the RTT post from 1 September by the Department will be a considerable blow to the school. It will have a detrimental impact not only on the children concerned, but on learning supports for other pupils. The number of children from the Traveller community who attend the school exceeds the 33 pupils required to retain such a post.
Edgeworthstown has recently been reallocated into CLÁR, a status it did not have at the allocation of DEIS. Primary schools serving rural areas, including towns with a population below 1,500 people, are included in the rural strand of DEIS. St. Mary's is no longer in this category, given the population increase in Edgeworthstown. However, I am conscious of the fact that an evaluation is being prepared for the next cycle of DEIS.
It is imperative that St. Mary's be immediately redesignated from DEIS rural to DEIS urban and that the post of rural co-ordinator is recategorised as home school community liaison. The school meets the recommended numbers for this post, as it is now the largest school in County Longford and in the Ardagh and Clonmacnoise diocese. St. Mary's has projected further enrolment growth and hopes to achieve a 20 classroom school on the site.