Tuesday, 27 May 1986
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: asked the Minister for Education if he will ensure that a teacher due to be placed on the panel from a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will be retained on the staff of that school as both the structure of the classes and the extremely disadvantaged nature of the area warrant the services of an additional teacher for the coming school year and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Kenny: The enrolment averages for the retention of the existing staffing level in this school have not been secured for the three quarter periods ended 31 March 1986 and if they are not secured in the current quarter ended 30 June, a post must be suppressed on that date under the rules.
It would not be open to me to waive the requirements of the panel rule in a particular case. However, since the school management have represented special difficulties in the matter of class organisation next September, I have arranged for the inspector to visit the school early in September and I will have the situation reviewed as sympathetically as possible when his report is available.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: The Minister said that he would have an inspector visit the school in September. Would he accept  that to defer decisions in cases like this, as has happened in previous years, is not in the interests of good school organisation? Would the Minister comment on that point?
Mr. Kenny: The Deputy is aware of the panel rule and the regulations governing staff levels in schools. While the school have confirmed that the retention average will not be reached in the relevant quarter, the teacher concerned may, however, continue to teach there until he is offered a suitable vacancy under the panel regulation.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Has the Minister had an opportunity to study the difficulties obtaining at the school in terms of the structure of the classes, class sizes and allocation of teachers? Has he had an opportunity to study the incidence of disadvantage that pertains in the school serving this parish?
Mr. Kenny: Documentation has been received in the Department from the school principal making a case for the retention of the teacher in question but the Department inspector, on his visit in September, will have a more comprehensive report for perusal and determination by the Minister.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: The case has been made by the school that they do not have a junior infants teacher for the intake for the 1986-87 school year. If that is the case, will the Minister accept that a decision like this needs to be made in advance of the summer holidays and not post-summer holidays so that good school organisation can continue to obtain at this school? Will the Minister accept that in general the ruling that decisions will be deferred into the summer holidays or post-summer holidays cannot be in the best educational interests of schools and school managements? Is the Minister aware of the duties of a principal, as the functional professional manager of a school, in allocating teachers to the different classes and ensuring that the  school gets off the ground efficiently and smoothly from the first day of intake?
Mr. Kenny: The Deputy is no doubt aware, as a former teacher, that there are other factors to be taken into consideration. The Deputy is aware of the details of the panel rules and of the numbers regarding retention figures and so on. This school has had a steady fall in numbers from a principal and 17 assistants in 1979 to a principal and 11 assistants at present. Added to that, the class groupings are quite uneven and organisation of classes is difficult. The inspector has been asked to report specifically on this matter.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: In view of the difficulties that have been outlined to his Department by this school, will the Minister ask the inspector to visit the school, not subsequent to the summer holidays but prior to the summer holidays, so that the inspector, in consultation with the principal, can get down to the job of efficiently reorganising the teaching resources at this school? Will the Department fully take into account the incidence of disadvantage, because there is a commitment given by the Minister's predecessor to give special consideration to areas that are disadvantaged?
Mr. Kenny: That is not peculiar to this school. No application for special consideration was received prior to January of this year when documentation was received from the school principal and, as I said, the Department are committed to treating the matter sympathetically, depending on resources and on the report of the inspector when he carries out his visit in September.
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