Dáil Éireann - Volume 521 - 15 June, 2000

Adjournment Debate. - School Staffing.

Mr. Gormley: It seems extraordinary that on the day an international survey reported that 25% of adults are functionally illiterate and another 20% can perform only simple reading and writing tasks I have to address the House on the issue of teacher cut backs in St. Brigid's Primary School, Haddington Road, Dublin 4. Is the Minister for Education and Science blind? Does he not see the very clear link between teacher cut backs and adult literacy problems? Does he understand that improved teacher pupil ratios are fundamental to improving the quality of education? Can he sympathise in any way with the parents who have discovered that Mrs. Carmel Hughes, a teacher who is about to retire, will not be replaced? Her teaching post will be lost from 31 August because the numbers on the school roll were 237 on 30 September 1999, three short of the number necessary for the retention of a ninth assistant.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the loss of one teacher will cause havoc in the school which is in a disadvantaged area. One should not be fooled by the Dublin 4 address – I have always said there is Dublin 4 and Dublin 4B, and many of these children are drawn not from Dublin 4 but from the inner city and Dublin 2. Many are from Ringsend where I live. I know the school and the adjacent school, St. Mary's, very well. The loss of one teacher will continue the cycle of disadvantage. Classes will have to double up and some will even breach the maximum figure of 29 set down for disadvantaged schools.

Parents and staff are very upset and cannot understand the petty bureaucracy which allows such a situation. The Government boasts of economic growth and prosperity, of huge trade surpluses and tax revenues, and yet ignores the most fundamental needs in society, namely, housing, health and education. The Government has not really grasped the fact that it is useless having money unless it is spent wisely and benefits ordinary people and future generations. The Government does not understand that to maintain pros[683] perity and improve quality of life, investment in education is necessary.

I do not want any further excuses. If the guidelines have given rise to this situation then we must change them. I note the guidelines for Gaelscoileanna are far more liberal, and while I support the promotion of Irish I also support similar standards for children in my area, which is disadvantaged.

I appealed to the Minister on a previous occasion for a remedial teacher. The school has many disadvantages and I hope the Minister listens to me. In the past the school has not had a resource teacher or psychological service nor a Department funded secretary or care-taker. It does not have a hall or all-purpose room. It rents the parish hall once per week when it is not being used by people from the parish. It does not have a computer room or parent meeting room. I have previously raised all these problems in the House and I will not go back over old ground. However, I ask the Minister to please listen to the pleas of the parents, staff and local representatives so we can make progress.

I remind the Minister of the survey I quoted which strongly emphasised the link between illiteracy and unemployment. The Minister can make a difference to the aspirations of the children in my area to go to third level and find good employment, aspirations we should all have, by providing a replacement for the teacher who will retire.

Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the Deputy on the staffing position in St. Brigid's national school, Haddington Road, Dublin 4. The staffing of a primary school for a particular year is determined by reference to the number of pupils enrolled in the school on 30 September the previous year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule, which is determined for a particular year following discussions with the managerial authorities and the INTO.

The current staffing of St. Brigid's national school is a principal and nine mainstream teachers based on an enrolment of 241 pupils on 30 September 1998. The school also has the services of a concessionary teacher due to its disadvantaged status, a shared resource teacher and a shared home-school liaison teacher, both of whom are based in the school.

The enrolment of the school on 30 September 1999 was 237 pupils. As the figure for the retention of the ninth teacher is 240, unfortunately the school must lose a post. I understand the teacher who held this post is being retained in the school in replacement of the teacher who is retiring.

If the board of management is of the view that the enrolment of the school in September 2000 will increase substantially, it may apply for a post under the developing school criteria, which for the 2000-01 school year are outlined in circular [684] letter 11/2000, a copy of which was forwarded to the board recently. To satisfy the criteria outlined, the enrolment of the school on 30 September 2000 would have to increase by at least 25 pupils over the number enrolled on 30 September 1999. Accordingly, the school would require an enrolment of at least 262 pupils on 30 September 2000 to gain a post. If the board of management is confident that the overall enrolment of the school on 30 September will be in excess of 262 pupils, it should apply to the primary payments branch of the Department for the allocation of a teaching post under the developing school criteria.

There has been a huge increase in the number of teachers provided. The Government has to distribute the enormous extra resources provided equitably. This is done in conjunction with school managements and the INTO. They devise a formula which is applied by us. There are certain clauses such as the one mentioned of which schools can avail. Others will be introduced soon to tackle disadvantage. I regret that I cannot be of more help.

Mr. Gormley: Will the Minister meet them?