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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 21 Jun 2001

Vol. 167 No. 6

Adjournment Matter. - School Staffing.

The matter I raise is the threatened loss of a teacher for the forthcoming school year in St. Joseph's primary school in East Wall, Dublin. I raised the same matter this time last year. The school was threatened with the loss of a teacher and the campaign to retain the teacher was successful on that occasion. It is a different matter this time because the numbers are 12 short of the figure needed to retain the teacher. It is the same old story of the school not having sufficient numbers at a certain point even though it may have them at a later stage.

The school in question is in a disadvantaged area. It has been unfortunate in not receiving the benefits of the Breaking the Cycle scheme, which it should have. The end result of the loss of the teacher in this case is that classes will be doubled and the remedial teacher will have to take time away from remedial work which is needed in a disadvantaged area. The school will lose a teacher who is happy to stay on at a time when it is unable to employ a resource teacher on a temporary basis and a specialist teacher because no one is interested in taking up a job in a deprived area of the inner city.

The children need all the resources they can get. In an era of considerable Exchequer surpluses, I would have thought a school in a disadvantaged area, which would have easily retained the teacher had it been granted the Breaking the Cycle scheme, would not be threatened with the loss of a teacher. The danger is that, once a teacher is lost and classes must double up, more parents will take their children out of the school and send them to a school with a better pupil-teacher ratio.

Considerable development in the area is on the horizon as part of the docklands development. Property has been bought in the area, not necessarily by people with families. However, with 20% of private development now going to social and affordable housing, this will mean families will move into the area, and we should be prepared for that. Will the Minister of State reassure us the teacher in question will not be lost?

I am pleased to have the opportunity to outline to the House the current position in regard to the staffing at St. Joseph's primary school, East Wall, Dublin 2. The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners. The enrolment at the school in question has decreased from 234 pupils on 30 September 1999 to 218 pupils on 30 September 2000. This latter enrolment will entitle the school to a staffing of a principal and eight mainstream class teachers for the 2001-02 school year. An enrolment of 240 pupils on 30 September, 2000 was required for the retention of the post of the ninth mainstream class teacher. In addition, the school has the services of a learning support teacher, a concessionary teacher, due to the school's disadvantaged status, and a shared home-school liaison teacher.

The only deviation from the agreed schedule to which the Minister referred is in the case of schools that are experiencing a large increase in enrolments. In such cases, an additional staffing post may be sanctioned by the Department of Education and Science if the school meets the defined criteria as outlined in Circular 12/01 which recently issued to schools. In the case of St. Joseph's, an enrolment of 245 pupils on 30 September 2001 would be required to meet the criteria as outlined in Circular 12/01.

The Minister for Education and Science launched the new programme, Giving Children an Even Break, in January to deal with educational disadvantage in primary schools. Schools participating in the programme are eligible to receive a range of additional supports, including teacher posts and financial supports to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils. The additional supports to be provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate in the programme.

There are separate urban and rural dimensions to the new programme. Schools categorised as urban with the highest concentrations of at risk pupils will be supported, where necessary, over the three year period through staff allocations to implement a pupil-teacher ratio of 20:1 in the junior classes, infants to second class, and a pupil-teacher ratio of 29:1 in senior classes, third to sixth classes.

The school in question is included in the urban dimension of the programme and is eligible to receive supplementary grant aid of £1,860 towards the provision of suitable educational supports for the pupils concerned in respect of the current school year. The school was not considered eligible for additional teaching staff, based on the level of concentration of at risk pupils in the school as reflected in the Educational Research Centre survey outcome.

The Seanad adjourned at 4.35 p.m. until 12 noon on Tuesday, 26 June 2001.