Written Answers. - Early Childhood Education.

Tuesday, 15 June 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 506 No. 2

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  408.  Mr. Gregory  Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   if St. Joseph's co-educational primary school, East Wall, Dublin 3, will retain the three year infant programme in view of its success. [14976/99]

  411.  Mr. R. Bruton  Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   if he will reconsider his decision to discontinue the three year infant programme in certain disadvantaged areas as in St. Joseph's national school, East Wall Road, Dublin 3; the value of the savings which his Department hopes to achieve; the schools affected; and the way in which this fits in with the stated objective of his Department of tackling educational disadvantage. [15045/99]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I will take Questions Nos. 408 and 411 together.

The Department's policy in the matter of conducting repeat classes and promoting pupils is clear. This policy specifies that the primary school curriculum is designed as an eight year course which provides for an infant programme of two years followed by six years in standards from first to sixth. The syllabus for each component of the curriculum is designed to give the greatest possible degree of flexibility in selecting programmes best suited to the individual needs of individual pupils and schools. Accordingly, pupils should as a rule progress to a higher standard at the end of each school year.

It is accepted that there are exceptional situations from time to time where an individual pupil would benefit from remaining for a second year in a particular grade. However, the Department holds the view that such situations should be minimal, and that under no circumstances should an entire cohort of pupils be retained for a second year. My Department has a range of measures available to tackle the problems associated with educational disadvantage, but the retention of pupils is regarded as a serious intervention in a child's educational progress. School authorities should examine the deployment of staff resources, the use of more flexible class management and teaching methodologies and the involvement of parental and home supports before considering retention as an option. This policy applies to all pupils and to all schools.

[453] In relation to St. Joseph's national school, I appreciate that the school has disadvantaged pupils and I do not underestimate the difficulties inherent in providing an education in such an environment. My Department has addressed these difficulties through the allocation of ex-quota posts to the school, namely a disadvantaged post, a remedial post and a special additional teacher for travellers.

I must re-emphasise that the discontinuation of the middle infant class is fully in line with Department policy as outlined above which is of long standing. Furthermore, I should point out that failure to comply with this policy in particular schools results in a reduction in the number of teaching posts which becomes available each year to the Minister for allocation to special needs and targeted areas.

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