Wednesday, 19 May 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Perry: With the recently announced changes in the pupil-teacher ratio and the dramatic development of this area in recent years, the school as of 1 September next is entitled to appoint an eighth teacher. This teacher has no classroom and as a matter of urgency a classroom needs to be provided at the school for this teacher. Now is the ideal opportunity to complete the building at the school by providing two new classrooms – one for the new teacher and one to replace the chalet and the long promised GP room. Additional office, remedial and storage space is also required and by completing the original eight classroom plus a GP room plan of the early 1980s – a plan which the board of management and the Department have in their possession – all this could be achieved and the accommodation issue at St. Patrick's national school, Calry, taken off the agenda.
The present accommodation leads to many difficulties in the day to day running of the school. For example, no remedial room was built at the school and when the remedial teacher visits twice weekly, she must work out of a small dark room originally planned as an office. Despite her best efforts to brighten up this room, it is a most dreary and dull environment for her and the children. Surely these children, the weakest in the system, should be given every stimulation to learn and a proper spacious learning environment is the least of their requirements.
The school secretary must also work out of this same dreary office. This means that she cannot attend the school on the same two days as the remedial teacher and thus is only available to the principal and staff three days a week. This leads to inefficiencies in the provision of the secretarial service as the secretary may not be in attendance on the day she is needed most. As the principal is a teaching principal, despite the fact that there are 212 children in the school, he finds that he is continually being interrupted in his teaching duties and the children in his class suffer as a result.
The recent provision of a school psychologist has once again shown up inadequacies in accommodation at the school. When the psychologist attends there is literally no place for her to carry out her work as the remedial teacher or the secretary will already be in the school and the only other room available is the staff room where her work is continually being interrupted by both the secretary or teachers using the photocopier.
Incidental parent-teacher meetings highlight the accommodation problems of the school. Parents who come to speak privately to the principal or a teacher find themselves discussing sensitive and private issues in a corridor or the staff room. The school makes every attempt to implement  the primary school physical education curriculum but, given the lack of a general purposes room and the climate of the north west, this is very difficult. For a number of weeks every year, PE cannot be done outside. To ensure that PE is done, the school has designed a plan for wet weeks. One day per week is designated for PE; if that day is wet one teacher has to clear the furniture from her classroom so that the room can be used for PE.
With every available space being used for teaching, storage of teaching, cleaning and other equipment creates a difficulty. When the original plan was altered in the late 1980s the planned staffroom was not built and what had been planned as a small library was converted into a staffroom. This room barely accommodated the six teachers in the school at the time. However, from 1 September next, the school will have eight teachers as well as a remedial teacher twice a week. The present staffroom is too small to accommodate even half this number. When the school doctor or dentist visits, children are expected to be examined and sometimes to undress in a staffroom where they can be interrupted at any moment by teachers going about their daily work.
The Minister must recognise that St. Patrick's national school, Calry is struggling to provide the best possible education for its children in extremely difficult circumstances. As the recent pre-school survey indicates – and as anyone can see from the number of houses being built in the area – the numbers in the school will increase dramatically over the next few years. This, in turn, will place impossible demands on the accommodation in the school. Where is the teacher who arrives in September to teach her class? One small, dark room cannot accommodate a secretary, a remedial teacher and her pupils and an educational psychologist and her clients. Now is the time to put the accommodation issue in order at this school by completing the original plan which allowed for eight classrooms, a GP room, a remedial room, office space and storage space. In a growing area this accommodation is urgently required. I appeal to the Minister to announce the completion of the plan.
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Mr. O'Dea): I thank Deputy Perry for raising this matter because it affords me an opportunity to clarify the position regarding the application for additional accommodation by Calry national school.
This six classroom school was built in 1989 to accommodate the amalgamation of two small schools in the area, Dunally national school and Calry national school. The current enrolment is 211 and the school is staffed by a principal teacher and six assistants.
The school management applied recently to my Department for additional classroom accommodation and a general purpose room. This application is currently under examination in the planning and building unit of my Department. In the course of the examination, factors such as the cur rent accommodation level at the school and demographic trends including possible housing developments in the immediate area, will be taken into consideration. As is normal in such cases also, an inspector's report and recommendation has been sought and obtained in the matter. On completion of this examination, my Department will be in a position to advise the board of management of the outcome.
My officials will seek to progress consideration of this application as quickly as possible. The Deputy will appreciate that it is far too early in the process to determine what the likely outcome will be.
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