Adjournment Matters. - School Staffing.

This matter concerns a primary school in Dublin Central – the Taoiseach's constituency – and relates to staffing ratios and resources. This is a disadvantaged area in the docklands. It is an isolated community bounded by the railway line on one side and the sea on the other. The area has not received its fair share of Dublin city's recent development. Surrounding schools in other disadvantaged areas have received preferential treatment compared to this school. It has not been in receipt of any of the schemes which have been forthcoming for the other schools with the result that there has been a reduction in staffing. This has meant the school has been unable to meet the needs of the community. Some six to eight young pupils who were unable to start school last September and who tried to start last Christmas were turned away because of insufficient staffing.

My concern is that the school has been losing pupils and will shortly lose parental confidence. If that happens, the school could easily lose its ability to continue and other surrounding schools could suck up its pupils.

That would sound the death knell for the community which has few facilities, even though it comprises 1,500 homes, and which, although it would be considered large in a rural area, is seen as small in Dublin. It has a post office, pub and petrol station. A road, which carries huge juggernauts, runs one side of it, which isolates it to a degree, about which I hope the port tunnel does something.

The main concern about the school is the pupil-teacher ratio and the extra resources required. This has been the subject of an ongoing campaign. When I asked previously about the matter, the reply was that a proper application had not been received from the school for the schemes put in place in recent years. While I admit the principal had been ill for some time, the issue has been brought to the attention of the Department of Education and Science on a number of occasions and I would like something specific done about it. The loss of a primary school in the area will mean parents will begin to look outside the area, not only for a school, but also for other facilities. That would sound the death knell for this little community.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter and giving me an opportunity to outline to the House the current position regarding the staffing situation at St. Joseph's co-educational primary school.

The Senator is aware that the staffing of a primary school for a specific year is determined by reference to the number of pupils enrolled on 30 September of the previous year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is determined for a specific year following discussions with the managerial authorities and the INTO.

The enrolment of the school on 30 September 2001 was 208 pupils which warrants a staffing for the 2002-03 school year of a principal and seven mainstream class teachers. The school also has the services of a language support teacher, disadvantaged concessionary teacher and a shared home-school liaison teacher. The number of pupils required to retain the eighth mainstream class teacher for the 2002-03 school year is 209. Accordingly, the school will lose that mainstream class teacher at the end of the current school year.

If the board of management of the school believes that the enrolment of the school for September 2002 will increase substantially, it may apply to the Department of Education and Science for a post under the developing school criteria. The criteria for the 2002-03 school year are outlined in the Department's circular letter, 9/02, a copy of which issued to the board of management of the school recently. To satisfy the criteria as outlined in the circular letter the enrolment of the East Wall primary school on 30 September 2002 would have to increase by at least 25 pupils over and above the number enrolled on 30 Sep tember 2001. Accordingly, the school would require an enrolment of at least 233 pupils on 30 September 2002 to gain the post. If the board of management of the school is confident that the overall enrolment of the school on 30 September 2002 will be in excess of 233 pupils, it should apply to the primary payments branch of the Department for the allocation of a teaching post under the developing school status.

The school referred to is included in the urban dimension of Giving Children An Even Break. It 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. Where schools expressed concern about the outcome of the survey in their respect, they were advised to make representations to the Department of Education and Science outlining their cir cumstances. Schools were informed that these representations would then be referred to the Educational Research Centre for consideration, and the Department would then consider their position. The Department has received a report from the Educational Research Centre and the position of the schools which made representations is being considered.

There is no record of representations having been received from the school in question until recently. Accordingly, its position was not considered. However, its circumstances may fall to be considered again in the context of any future modifications to the programme. I will, when I have an opportunity to do so, advise the Minister of the Senator's concerns regarding the specifics of the case.

The Seanad adjourned at 4.35 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 19 April 2002.