I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this matter and the Minister of State for replying. Kilcooley national school is a small rural school outside Loughrea, County Galway. It was classified in 2000 as being in a very bad condition, one of the worst in the country. The Minister for Education and Science has indicated that a substantial reconstruction and extension programme is to be carried out on the school. It is hoped that the new extension will be occupied by the beginning of the new academic year. The enrolment was 82 students in the 2004-05 academic year but this number has temporarily decreased in the current year. It is hoped that in September 2006 the enrolment will rise to 81 with a potential for more.
The parents and the school management are concerned that the school will lose a teacher if the Minister does not give a concession to this school to retain that teacher until the following year when the numbers will increase again. The new school extension will provide four new classrooms to allow each teacher have a classroom each if the teacher is retained. If the teacher is not retained, it will be a return to a situation of overcrowding. This is an ideal opportunity for the Minister to show her commitment to the reduction of the student-teacher ratio by allowing the carry-over for just one year.
As is the case in every other school, there is a cohort of students with special needs. The additional teacher has proved to be a clear benefit to the children. It is hoped to continue what would be regarded as sound educational practice to allow the school to retain the fourth teacher until the enrolment figures show an increase at the start of the new academic year in September. The parents, the parents association of the school and the school management are greatly concerned that if the school loses a teacher, they will face a battle to restore the complement of teachers. Furthermore, many students will lose out in terms of the benefit of an additional teacher.
I ask the Minister of State to arrange for this matter to be examined with a view to allowing this school to retain the additional teacher until the number of students are up to a level that justify the current complement of four teachers.