Wednesday, 17 June 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for giving me the opportunity to raise this issue. I also thank the Minister for coming here to deal with this important matter. The parents and board of management of Ballyferriter national school are concerned that one of their teachers has been put on the panel. The school is only one child short of the required number and pupil numbers for the coming year are good.
In Gaeltacht areas, some children only have Irish as a family language, other children have various standards of fluency in Irish, some have an understanding of it, others have only a few words, and some have no knowledge of it and only know English. The Minister can appreciate  that this means an extra workload on teachers in such schools. The teachers in this school would, therefore, be under severe pressure if the fourth teacher left it would cause serious difficulty to the school, its staff and its pupils. I am also concerned about the effect of the loss of a teacher on pupils whose grasp of Irish is weak. This will also have implications for the strength of the language in Ballyferriter.
This school has a special case and I implore the Minister to ensure the teacher is retained. We in this House are convinced of the need to preserve the Irish language and of how important it is to all of us. Teachers in schools such as Ballyferriter play a vital role in keeping our first language and they deserve the Minister's support. I pay tribute to all teachers who do an excellent job in difficult circumstances in communities throughout this country for the Irish language.
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the House on the situation in Ballyferriter national school.
I draw the Deputy's attention to the manner in which the staffing allocation for primary schools  is determined. The staffing of a national school for a particular 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, and has been the situation for many years.
The enrolment of Ballyferriter national school on 30 September 1996 was 94 pupils. This enrolment warranted a staffing of a principal and three assistants for the 1997-8 school year. Additionally, the school has the services of a shared remedial teacher.
Unfortunately, the enrolment of the school on 30 September 1997 had fallen to 86 pupils. This latter enrolment warrants a staffing of a principal and two assistants for the 1998-9 school year. An enrolment of 87 pupils would have been required on 30 September 1997 to retain the third assistant teacher.
I have requested a member of my Department's inspectorate to visit the school, as a matter of priority, in order to investigate the staffing needs of the school for the 1998-9 school year and report back to me on the issue.
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