I thank the Chair for allowing me time to raise this important issue. St. Gabriel's national school, Cowper Street, Dublin 7, has already documented for the Department in great detail, the problems the school is tackling and the resources it needs, given its special circumstances. The school needs an extra teaching post over and above the promised staffing level for September this year. This is essential to enable the school to retain a teacher per class at each level in the school, operate a manageable pupil-teacher ratio in each class and provide a badly needed remedial mathematics class.
There is a very young population in the school's immediate catchment area which is located in area D of the north-west inner city. More than one fifth of the population is aged 14 years and under. The 1996 census shows that 70.4% of the population aged 15 years and over had left school at the time of or before their junior certificate, compared to 40.2% in the north-west inner city as a whole and 36.2% in Dublin. Only 10% of the past pupils of the school in question have completed the leaving certificate since 1994.
The area network, in its area action plan for 1999-2004 for the north-west inner city, states that the school is located in an area of immense socio-economic disadvantage and deprivation. Difficult family circumstances impacting on children and their experiences, development, education and future employment denote a spiralling circle of disadvantage. School is a refuge and a haven of peace and fair play and a step towards equal opportunity, provided the pupil-teacher ratio enables effective delivery of a child-centred education where the needs of the individual pupil are adequately met.
Following an amalgamation in 1996 of the former girls' and boys' schools it was considered by the school authorities a priority to have a teacher per class, in order to meet the needs of every child. The pupil-teacher ratio for disadvantaged schools was reduced to 29:1 a number of years ago. Because the school has always considered 29:1 to be far in excess of one where the needs of all could be met, one of the remedial teachers and both concessionary teachers were assigned to classroom duties. Consequently class sizes have been around 20.
During the past year, however, the school's numbers have increased, particularly in the junior section. With no extra staffing and a directive to keep the pupil-teacher ratio in junior classes at 20:1, the school will have to lump senior classes together. Some of fifth class will have to work with sixth class, and so on. This would be a retrograde step and detrimental to the excellent efforts being made by teachers to meet the individual needs of all pupils.
The school is due an extra teacher next September, due to the increased enrolment of the previous year. It had hoped to establish a much needed remedial mathematics post with that appointment. However, in order to keep classes in the junior section to 20 pupils, it must deploy six teachers there. As there are at least 27 in second class, seven will have to be moved back to work with first class in order to maintain a pupil-teacher ratio of 20:1, and so on along the line causing multiple or mixed classes. This, the school says, is not a satisfactory arrangement and furthermore, means new children who come to live in the area cannot be enrolled.
In order to keep senior classes as single units the school must deploy four teachers there. Consequently the new assistant must take a class and the school must again forgo its remedial mathematics class.
I appeal to the Minister of State. I know the work of this school at first hand. It deserves this chance and badly needs these resouces.