Wednesday, 7 May 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Ellis: Thank you for the opportunity to raise this matter which affects the national school which I attended. I wish you well in your retirement and pay tribute to you for the courtesy shown me down through the years in your role as Ceann Comhairle. I wish you health and happiness in the years ahead.
Mr. Ellis: This question has been ongoing between the Department of Education and the school authorities for some time. It appears that an application for disadvantaged status went astray last year and which, if granted, would have allowed the school to maintain its third teacher. Because of not being granted disadvantaged status the school is now being reduced from a three to a two teacher school. In recent weeks one of the teachers has been placed on a panel for transfer. The area schools inspector will have pointed out to the Department some of the  ongoing problems experienced at the school for some time. It would appear the Department is not prepared to take the necessary action to deal with the problem.
There are 50 pupils in the school which, in normal circumstances, would warrant a two teacher school. The educational needs of many of the pupils in the school warranted the school being granted disadvantaged status last year. As a result of an oversight disadvantaged status was not granted. I made a late plea to the Minister to have this school included in the list of schools to be declared disadvantaged but that was not possible. I hope the Minister will reconsider the position.
The parents of the children attending the school are worried. They fear their children will not gain the full benefits available to them from the national school education system and that if they lose the third teacher there will be an imbalance in regard to the teachers who remain in the school. This is very worrying for the future of the school. Parents who met last night declared they will picket the school and the Department and take the pupils from the school. This is not the appropriate action that should be taken. I hope the Minister will accede to the request to grant the school disadvantaged status and in doing so to allow it to retain its third teacher.
Mr. Allen: I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this matter. I wish to draw the Deputy's attention to the manner in which the staffing allocation of primary schools is determined.The staffing of a national school for a year is determined by the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous year. This is in accordance with an agreement on staffing entered into between the Government and the INTO.
 The enrolment of Fenagh national school on 30 September 1996 was 53 pupils. This enrolment warrants a staff of a principal and one assistant for the 1997-8 school year. In the circumstances, the second assistant's post will be suppressed at the end of the current school year. In addition to the staffing which I mentioned, this school also has the services of a shared remedial teacher.
Unfortunately, the enrolment of the school on 30 September 1996 had declined. Fenagh national school would have had to achieve an enrolment of 55 pupils on 30 September 1996 to retain its second assistant teacher. The teacher in question has been offered panel rights which effectively guarantees the teacher another permanent post in a school within a 28 mile radius of Fenagh national school. Redeployment will not take place before September.
The staffing agreement can be deviated from and additional posts allocated to a school in the current school year if either of two circumstances exists. The first is where a school achieves developing school status. This occurs as a result of rapid enrolment growth. For Fenagh national school to achieve developing school status it would need to increase its enrolment in September 1997 to 78 pupils. The second circumstance arises when a school is in breach of maximum class size guidelines. Maximum class size guidelines in the current school year are as follows: 35 in the case of a single grade class grouping; 34 in the case of two consecutive class groupings; 31 in the case of multi-grade class groups and 29 in the case of schools designated as disadvantaged. If the managerial authorities at the school are unable to manage the enrolment within the recommended guidelines or if the school qualifies for developing school status, it is open to the authorities to contact my Department in the matter.
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