The schools in question are two important primary schools in Dublin Bay North, Our Lady Immaculate senior national school, SNS, Darndale, Dublin 17 and St. Laurence's national school, Brookstone Road in Baldoyle Dublin 13. The principal of St. Laurence's, Ms Clare Finnerty, told me that she met the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Bruton, in March 2017 and that she sent in a letter of application for a single school campus because the school is unusual in that it has two separate campuses. The dual campus is unsatisfactory. Infants are in Grange Road and 3rd to 6th classes are on Brookstone Road. Her application was turned down, but she was encouraged to apply for upgrade works to both buildings. She applied again for a single campus in 2018 and did not even receive an acknowledgement.
In October 2018, the secretary of the senior school retired and the application for a replacement secretary was turned down. There is no secretary now at one of the campuses. In February 2018, the school made an emergency works application to replace doors that are necessary to create an internal corridor. It is one of the old style schools from the 1960s or 1970s. At present the children must leave the building to move into other classrooms. The covered shelter area outside the building is also in serious need of repair and could be very dangerous if it collapsed. This application was refused. St. Laurence's representatives were then told by the Department that they should apply for emergency works but, again, this was refused in September. they were then told that they should apply for a summer works grant to get fire alarms and electrics upgraded. The principal was also told the school could apply for a minor works grant but the amount, €13,600, is too small for the upgrading needed. Why has the school not received approval for the single campus or for the urgent works that are necessary?
With regard to the second issue, other Members and I were in touch with the principal and deputy principal of Our Lady Immaculate SNS Darndale, Dublin 17. They were in contact with us first around the time of a shocking murder in broad daylight beside the junior national school in Darndale, which had a devastating effect on the community. In fact, during the past school year there were two gun-related murders in close proximity to the school and as deputy principal, Shane Loftus, tells me, this had a serious impact on the children and on school life and teachers had to work closely with the children and parents to try to alleviate the impact of this utter mayhem happening outside their building.
School staffing is based on figures from the previous school year and, in effect, staffing runs a year behind the number of children in the school. I am told that in 2018-19, Our Lady Immaculate SNS had 180 children but had staffing for 193 based on numbers from 2017-18. This year, however, the school will have 197 children but will only have staffing for 180 students. The case made by Shane Loftus and his colleagues on the school team is that the school will have one teacher fewer but will have more children to provide for. The circumstances in that environment in the vicinity of the school are not remotely normal. I was told that the smaller classes in the school meant teachers were able to provide a critical support to the children. The school, the principal and deputy principal made the case that in these exceptional circumstances Our Lady Immaculate school should be allowed to maintain its current staffing level. The numbers coming from the infants school in 2020-21 will increase. We have had many discussions in this Chamber and I know the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, have visited the community. The north Coolock community is facing an exceptionally difficult time on those grounds we want the Minister to grant the additional teacher that is needed.