Gabhaim buíochas leis an gcoiste as ucht an cuireadh anseo inniu. Scoil Choilm was established in a temporary building, at short notice and under emergency conditions in September 2007, under the temporary patronage of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin. To put the school in context, approximately 90 children of schoolgoing age in the Porterstown parish could not be accommodated in the two Roman Catholic schools in the parish. Most of these children were of international newcomer background and the majority were non-Roman Catholics. When the school opened in September 2007, a total of 81 junior infants were enrolled. The school has grown incrementally since then and we are now catering for children in junior infants, senior infants and first class. It is hoped that when the school is fully developed, it will be a three-stream, co-educational school catering for children from junior infants to sixth class.
In September 2008, the school moved to its permanent school building on the Porterstown Road. We have a 16-classroom school building of which we are very proud. The school is now located back in its own catchment area which largely comprises Porterstown parish and some outlying estates. There are two Roman Catholic schools in the parish and, ultimately, Scoil Choilm will share a campus with Luttrellstown community college.
Scoil Choilm is currently under the patronage of the Minister for Education and Science who has appointed a single manager to manage the school on his behalf until a board of management is formed. Patronage of the school will transfer to County Dublin Vocational Education Committee following enactment of the necessary primary legislation and a board of management will then be formed.
The school community is very diverse which is reflected in our admissions policy. Scoil Choilm aims to promote the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the child: intellectual, physical, cultural, moral and spiritual. The school seeks to provide a high standard of education where each child is encouraged to reach his or her personal potential. The school is committed to a spirit of inclusion, equality and harmony where each child and member of the school community is valued and treated with respect. As one of the two community national schools currently being piloted, the school caters for children of all faiths and none. It is the policy of Scoil Choilm to respect, celebrate and recognise diversity in all areas of human life.
Scoil Choilm community national school follows the revised primary school curriculum as set out by the Department of Education and Science and the teaching of all subjects is in line with the recommendations as set out by the Department. We are proud to state that the teaching of Irish is the same as in any other school.
Most of the children attending our school live in apartments. This presents us with a major difficulty in trying to adhere to all areas of the curriculum, as most of them get few opportunities to play outdoors. Physical education, PE, at school is an important part of their development. Unfortunately, while our school is a state-of-the-art building, it was built without a hall, which is a major disadvantage for the children and us in trying to implement the PE curriculum.
Our school strives to ensure a high standard of education and is developing school plans and policies. We have received considerable help and support from various agencies within the Department of Education and Science and the Primary Professional Development Service, PPDF. We have also received much support from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. Our education psychologist has worked closely with us in trying to develop behavioural management strategies in an effort to address the acute behavioural challenges the school faces on an ongoing basis. The provision of support from DEIS has also been significantly beneficial to our school.
Some 92% of our pupils are of international newcomer background. The challenges this poses for staff are considerable. For most of these children, English is an additional language. Given these factors, most have not attended any form of pre-schooling and appear in school with little readiness. They do not have the language to attain the curriculum and have no understanding of the expectations of the Irish schooling system. This problem is compounded by the fact that their parents also have little understanding of what schooling means or is in Ireland.
Our allocation of five additional language support teachers has been of considerable help in trying to address the linguistic and cultural challenges faced by the school. The allocation not only helps with trying to ensure children have some level of understanding and can converse in English, but also helps to address the behavioural management strategies required in the school. Most children will gain conversational language within a two-year period, which often gives a false sense of how they are getting on in school. To attain academic language, however, all research shows that children need seven or eight years. That EAL support can be cut short can pose a problem as children move up through the school. This matter desperately needs to be addressed if the children are to access the primary school curriculum. I would like to see a sufficient level of EAL support extended throughout the primary school cycle at a reasonable rate instead of a diminished one.
Where increasing familiarity with the needs of pupils for whom English is an additional language is concerned, most of our staff have participated in beneficial courses either on-line or through the Dublin West Education Centre. The emphasis at infant level is on developing conversational language.
In Scoil Choilm, there is an array of cultures, all of which have their own unique styles of parenting. This has posed significant difficulties for our staff. Many of the families of pupils came to these shores as refugees. Often, their children bear the associated social and emotional scars. Some children have been separated from their parents for prolonged periods or are being reared by members of their extended families. The social and behavioural difficulties manifested by a portion of the pupils in our school cause major challenges. These factors, along with the linguistic difficulties, compound the difficulties we face in trying to address the curriculum.
In meeting these needs, the school has used its EAL allocation to break down its pupil-teacher ratio. This process has worked well. In junior and senior infants, the ratio is 16:1. In first class, it is 22:1. This process was facilitated by our beautiful new school building and the fact that we currently have a few classrooms available, but space is fast running out. To maintain good teaching, we need more space.
Many of the school's children have special educational needs. Often, these stem from the children's difficult backgrounds and the challenges faced by their families. Each year, we run two educational psychological assessments, but this level does not meet our needs. Our school was built with two special education teaching rooms, but this allocation does not meet its needs.
Scoil Choilm has been given DEIS status, which has been a fantastic and significant benefit to the school. It has afforded us after-school clubs, which are great because many of the parents in question cannot read or write in English. That children can attend homework clubs has been very beneficial to them.