I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this matter on the Adjournment and I welcome the Minster of State to the House. St. Kevin's boys' national school in Kilnamanagh, Tallaght, is one of two local national schools in the Kilnamanagh area. I wish to highlight to the Minister for Education and Science the very genuine concerns of this school community in connection with the teaching allocation from September of this year. This matter has been brought to my attention by the parents of children in the school who urgently want the Department to reverse its decision to effectively reduce the total number of teachers in the school from 16 to 13 from September 2005. If this decision is pushed through by the Department, the school will lose 20% of its staff from September of this year, despite the fact that the actual number of pupils in the school will have increased from 238 in September 2004 to at least 244 in September 2005.
The effect of recent announcements concerning special needs education will mean there are more children to teach in this school and fewer teachers to teach them. It will also mean that in at least one of the junior classes which will be enrolled this September, 34 junior infants will be in a classroom with just one teacher. This is an example of the Government's continued failure to honour its commitment at the last election to improve the pupil teacher ratios in our national schools.
The reason we see such a radical reduction in the number of teachers in this school is due, of course, to the introduction of the weighted model in respect of special education. The school in this case readily accepts that its pupils have gained from the additional special education resource in recent years. However, the transition from the old to the new system will cause havoc in schools like this throughout the country.
The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, has been upfront in accepting that new hardship cases will result from the new rules in respect of allocating teaching resources to special needs students. The Minister is on the record as favouring some flexibility where hardship cases, such as the one we are discussing this evening, are presented. I understand that on 30 May, the principal wrote to the Department of Education and Science — a copy has gone to the Minister — outlining the very severe difficulties that will result from September in this school, if a serious appeal is not considered by the Department. I plead with the Minister to show flexibility even at this late hour and to accede to the request on behalf of this school in advance of the next school year.
To lose three teachers from this school in one year would have a very serious impact, not just on the school but on the wider community. This is a school that showed remarkable resilience when faced some years ago with the possibility of an amalgamation. Parents have raised significant sums of money to help their children's educational experience, and this should be recognised by the Department of Education and Science. No one doubts the significant new resources that have been put into special education in recent years, but the current "one size fits all" approach by the Department, when it comes to making resources available in this area, needs to be urgently addressed.