Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 26 May, 2004
Adjournment Debate. - School Staffing.
Mr. P. Breen Mr. P. Breen
 Mr. P. Breen:I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Adjournment. I apologise for my colleague, Deputy James Breen, who was to speak on the matter with me. He had a medical appointment and, unfortunately, cannot be here.
I am delighted to have an opportunity to raise the issue that faces the principal and teachers and, more importantly, the students of Ennis community college. It concerns staffing levels at the college for the 2004-05 academic year in light of the fact that the Department of Education and Science insists on a reduction of six teachers.
Ennis community college provides comprehensive education in academic and vocational subjects for boys and girls from a catchment area of approximately ten miles. The college is non-denominational but provides the majority religious requirements. All Oireachtas Members were invited by the principal to a meeting on Monday last. I appreciate the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, had an important previously arranged engagement in Cork and could not attend the meeting that evening. Concern was expressed regarding the proposed teacher losses, particularly resource teachers who are on contract and most likely to lose their jobs in the event of the reductions taking place this year.
Ennis community college has over 380 students and currently approximately 60 students attend the resource service. This figure does not include the 18 non-nationals who also attend resource services. During the past 30 years there has been a strong movement towards the integration of pupils with special needs in mainstream schools. The needs of Ennis students include specific, mild and general disability, emotional and behavioural difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, speech and language disorders and various other syndromes. There is also a deaf unit in the school and many of the students need one-to-one attention. I can assure the Minister of State the three resource teachers do an excellent job, their reputation is second to none and they have achieved enormous success with the students. Therefore, the special needs department is needed in Ennis community college.
To be fair to all, the college authorities acknowledge there should be a staff reduction given that numbers have fallen in the college in recent years. The present staffing level is approximately 40. I understand three teaching staff are due to retire in the near future. What the college seeks is some breathing space over the next 12 months so the staff numbers can be reduced in an organised fashion rather than by the loss of six teachers at once. I understand from the college authorities that if this is to happen in September the special needs unit in the school  will be affected and we all know the effect this will have on students with special needs.
I ask the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, and my constituency colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy de Valera, who has a special interest in the college, to make some arrangement to facilitate Ennis community college. If that means the provision of extra funding for the next 12 months to maintain the present staff numbers, and particularly the three resource teachers who do an excellent job for students with special needs, so be it.
Miss de Valera Miss de Valera
Miss de Valera:The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, regrets he cannot be present but has asked me to make a number of points on his behalf.
Ennis community college operates under County Clare Vocational Educational Committee. The Department approves an annual teacher allocation for each VEC based on the number of schools and the enrolment in the schools on 30 September of the previous year. The chief executive officer of the VEC allocates the teaching resources to the VEC schools from within the overall VEC allocation. The staffing schedule, outlining the allocation to County Clare VEC issued in February of this year. Requests for adjustments to the teacher allocation are considered by the Department of Education and Science in the areas of curricular, increased enrolment, special needs students, Traveller and non-national enrolment.
For the current school year County Clare VEC has allocated Ennis community college a principal teacher, deputy principal, 27.30 whole-time teacher equivalents, 2.5 lán Gaeilge posts, one disadvantaged area post, one guidance counsellor, one remedial teacher, 2.61 whole-time teachers in respect of special needs students, 2.33 whole-time teachers for a hearing impaired unit, one teacher for non-nationals and 1.43 whole-time teachers for Travellers. This allocation was based on the enrolment of 466 pupils on 30 September 2002.
For the upcoming school year County Clare VEC has allocated Ennis community college a principal teacher, 23.60 whole-time teacher equivalents, 4.64 whole-time teachers for lán Gaeilge and hearing impaired unit, one disadvantaged area post, one guidance counsellor and one remedial teacher. This allocation was based on an enrolment of 403 pupils on 30 September 2003. The request for adjustments to the teacher allocation based on special needs, Travellers and non-nationals in Ennis community college is currently under consideration in the Department and County Clare VEC will be notified of a decision in the near future.
An independent appeals board is in place to deal with appeals of a curricular nature made by schools or VECs. The criteria for such appeals  are set out in appendix 2 of the second level teacher allocations document 2004-05 issued to all VECs and which is also available on the Department’s website. County Clare VEC has appealed to the independent committee and the decision on this appeal will be notified to the VEC in early June.
I thank the Deputy for raising the matter in this House.
Dáil Éireann 586 Adjournment Debate. School Staffing.