There is a lot in that so I will work through a few bits and pieces. I will address some of the common questions on education. The school on the campus has in excess of 26 teachers. Those 26 teachers are employed by the Education and Training Board, ETB, which comes under the Department of Education and Skills. The school on the campus is its own entity and has its own structure. The school on the campus, which is no different from the residential side of the house, had to undergo a merger on the campus last September. Previously there were two schools - Oberstown Boys School and Trinity House School. There were two teaching teams coming together under one new structure. In September 2015, that new school was formed and a principal was appointed who had been on site previously. He brought together all the teachers in a new building on the campus. Some of the teachers there operate in the primary school structure and some in the secondary school. However, the school year is a primary school year and not secondary. Class hours are based on primary school. The class year is based on primary school so it runs later into the year. The school structure is that in a classroom there is one teacher per three children. That is the standard and how the classroom is designed.
I will return to the education question but from a physical perspective, it is the most modern school I have ever come across. It has everything for teaching children. It has electronic boards, academic classrooms, training, computers, maintenance and woodwork - anything one could think of is available and provided to young people. The facilities and structures are there and it has been well-resourced. The issue is providing education to up to 48 young people in that facility. There is a routine for moving children to and back from school. School kicks off at 9.45 a.m. and finishes at 3.20 p.m. There are 48 young people to be moved in and out of school twice a day. It is structured so that 48 young people are not wandering around the campus at the same time. They are moved in groups of three and four. It takes 15 minutes in the morning to move all young people to school and it takes 15 minutes in the evening to move them all back out of school. When they are in school, they are in their own classrooms. It is a standard primary school day. There are times in the morning when it is slower to move them in. One cannot have 48 young people wandering around the campus. It is a practical issue and it is done from a security perspective. The only time young people do not attend school is if there is a problem with them in school. If there is a problem with their behaviour in school, they manage it in school. However, if they need to step out of school, they are sent back to the units. If someone is not managing in the unit, for example, if we have a new admission, a young person who is on drugs or there is a serious concern about their behaviour, they may not attend school The majority of young people go to school on a daily basis, whether they are 15, 16 or 17. The young people love to go to school. They want to go to school. There is a perception that they are not getting enough of school and they would like to be there more. What we have done from a campus perspective is employ nine people to come in in the evening between 4 o'clock and 7 o'clock to provide further classes in music, reading, drama and sports. We have an extra nine staff coming in and from 4 o'clock to 7 o'clock in the evening there are further classes available for young people. It is done in a structured way within campus resources.
I gave some examples on the schooling and the results that were achieved in the junior certificate, which is a standard output - 20 young people achieved their junior certificate and different exams. This needs to be understood in the context of the fact that of the 48 young people on licence in the campus, 20 of them are on committals. All the others are on remand and come and go so they will not be in a position to sit the exams. Almost 100% of young people who are in a position to sit exams are sitting exams, gaining a level of academic achievement and moving on. For those on remand, there is a whole other process of accredited modules that they can carry on out of the school. If they are in the school for three, four or five weeks, the school focuses on a different approach to education. That helps them when they move on. From an education perspective, we constantly review the attendance of children in school to make sure it is at a maximum. We are well on our way to having that achieved. From the education perspective, I am very happy with where we got to.
I will address the point about relationships and the ethos of the campus. After my arrival, I wandered the schools for a couple of months to see what was going on. I will give an example of some of the challenges we had which we have had to try to overcome. If I was a young person in one of the schools and I was on mobilities, which means I was allowed to leave the campus with staff or on my own and could go out for the weekend and go home, if I came back to the unit and had to go to court for an appearance a week later I would be handcuffed, put into a car with three staff and taken to court. That does not make sense to me. I give permission for a young person who is managing well to go home for a weekend, to get on the bus themselves, come back themselves and manage well at home but because of a need to attend court to address previous issues, they are handcuffed and taken to court. That was a cultural practice. If a child was in another school, they might not be handcuffed but thrown into the back of a car with one staff member and taken off to court. There are real challenges around how the cultural practices of the school evolved over a period of time. It is an ongoing concern. I do not want to give the impression I am coming down on staff on this issue. This is reality. It is how the schools had evolved up to a particular point in time.
The issue of ethos was referenced. The outside world perceived that Trinity House dealt with the more difficult young people. On that basis, the routine and regime within Trinity House was based around security. When one came in, it was a lot stricter. The buildings were designed in such a way that a child did not come out of the buildings. If they did they were in handcuffs. All the services were built around the school whereas in Oberstown the units were scattered around the grounds and there was not the same level of security. The control that staff had on young people was based around relationships. If I work with young people in a way that is based around relationships, I might get into conflict with a staff member who works with young people in a way that is based around processes, security and control because we both come from different perspectives.
Young people have asked to be placed in different schools. If they were in court, they would tell the judge they wanted to go to Oberstown Boys School or Trinity House because they had a knowledge and understanding of the routine. They were picking what suited them best. That continued up to 1 June 2016. For the length of time I have been there, I have not been in a position to determine what children go to what school because the legislation provided that the courts decided what child would go to what school if there was a bed available. Those schools have been gone since 1 June so now the director decides what unit anybody coming onto the campus goes to.
There is no such thing as Trinity House or Oberstown Boys School any more. We have ten units. Underneath the surface, I am concerned that there are still practices within certain units that relate to certain schools. It is natural for staff to hang on to how they formerly did business. This also applies to young people. Some have been there for a year or for two years and they have perceptions of the Trinity House rules being in force. I received a letter from a young person recently asking to be able to write to his friends in prison. He was able to map out for me that there was one rule for Oberstown House and another for Trinity House. He asked me what rule applied to him because the staff were giving him mixed messages. The rule in one school was that one could not write to someone in prison because it was seen as encouraging young people to communicate with others involved in a criminal life. That has moved on but it is still embedded in some of the practices of staff. This might give an indication of some of the challenges that exist.
People spoke about strategy but the culture is embedded and if we do not get buy-in from staff on how we do our business, we will find it more difficult. A pro-social focus on relationships was mentioned. Looking at how things happened on the overall campus, I was concerned with the question of whether we were concerned with care or control. How do we determine the relationship model we need to have with young people? We did some research and got some external people in to help. The challenge was in the fact that young people previously got two-year sentences. The chances are that they would have worked with a group of people and staff who would get to know them, have relationships with them, take them off campus for golf or shopping or home to meet their parents, build up a relationship and then, after two years, move on. They are not the young people who come to us now. With changes in legislation and the focus on keeping young people out of detention facilities, sentences are shorter, typically of three, six or nine months. Accordingly, the focus of staff has to change and they have to see how they can get to know a young person who is on remand for two or three weeks and on committal for another three or four months. They cannot focus on dealing with them for two years and getting them an apprenticeship when they leave. Their focus must be on how they can get them to see a doctor on the basis that they have core medical health issues that need to be addressed. They need to think how they can get them to school and other basic stuff that will help them when they leave in three or four months' time. Some staff have managed the change really well but others find it more difficult.
I will try to walk committee members through the way a young person comes on to the campus. We do not decide who comes onto the campus - the courts decide. We get a phone call to say a remand order has been made for, say, Pat Bergin and that he is on his way. We do not know who Pat Bergin is, however. We start the process of gathering information from social services, probation services and family. The young person will normally be on campus before we get the information. We are at a loss before we start trying to understand him or her. When the young person comes into the campus, he or she is searched and must give urine samples. He or she is put into a room and monitored and then allowed to mix with the rest of the campus. We are a detention facility, not a residential unit, and that raises its own challenges. If that has to be the experience of children at the outset, I want to soften it. We still have to search them and test them for drugs and we still need to have information but it does not have to be done in a protection room with very little light. We are trying to change the culture so that we do business in a different way. In this way, the care element comes out from the beginning and it is less like a detention facility.
Staff are fearful at the moment. Events of 29 August have had a serious impact on us all at the campus. It was a long 12 hours but the fire was not the issue. The media spoke about the fire and the people on the roof but the young people were on another roof in the building and there was no risk to them. They set a fire and moved elsewhere. The issue was the lack of control the young people demonstrated and that is what has scared staff. Many factors contributed to that and there is a Garda investigation into the events of that night, including into the damage caused and the fire. The question for me concerns what contributed to the events of 29 August. There was a range of factors, including industrial action, minimum staff and disquiet over a number of issues. Young people were aware that there was industrial action so they were empowered and knew that, outside the door, there were only two staff instead of the three or four who should have been there. Anxiety over how people were going to manage was a real concern for staff. There were questions of who was going to be on that morning and how they would be deployed. It was a difficult period and what happened on the day escalated to a point that we needed assistance. The fire services were called in, as were gardaí, to try to regain control. The fire happened at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. but events had been ongoing since noon and that was the core concern. The issue is the fear and anxiety staff have had over how they can lose control and we are trying to address that.
I was asked about how control was lost in this way. In any unit there are a maximum of eight young people and 15 staff assigned to it. From 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. those 15 staff are on a rota to provide direct care to young people. They can be on at 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. - it all depends on the roster. When there are 15 staff per unit, 12 will be available and three may be on leave. In all units we have 125 staff and the challenge is that the level of sick leave has always been quite high. Last November we had sick leave of 17% and this was a routine figure over the years. We have reduced it to 10% by managing people's return. There were people on our books who were never going to come back so we needed to backfill posts. When I started in December 2013, there were 24 staff not on campus who were either out sick or absent for some other reason. That is why a unit that was supposed to be in use at that stage was not opened. We ascertained whether the staff who were absent were coming back and started a recruitment process. Members will see from the figures that an enormous amount of recruitment has been made, with numbers going from 198 to 261. Some of it was to backfill posts for people who had left or retired. The capacity to increase staff is based on a very small pool of social care workers who exist in the outside world. There is a challenge for any residential centre - not just Oberstown - in getting staff as there is a small pool. The negative publicity around Oberstown does not help and people have signed up for us only to pull back. If we do not have sufficient staff we cannot provide the service we need to provide.