Tuesday, 6 March 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
393. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reassess a school (details supplied) to have it classified as disadvantaged or if he will provide greater assistance to the school by way of additional teachers and the creation of smaller class numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6945/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The Deputy may be aware of the new programme, Giving Children An Even Break, that I announced on 4 January last, which will run over a three year period and will cost some £26 million. The programme involves the creation of 204 new primary teaching posts and the allocation of cash grants to over 2,300 primary schools in respect of disadvantaged pupils.
Schools invited to participate in the new programme were identified through a survey of educational disadvantage in primary schools carried out by the Educational Research Centre for my Department last year. A key condition of participation in the new programme is that the additional resources must be used for the provision of holistic supports for pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The additional supports to be provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate in the programme.
There are separate urban and rural dimensions to the programme. Schools categorised as urban with the highest concentrations of at risk pupils will be supported where necessary over the three-year period through staff allocations to  implement a pupil teacher ratio of 20:1 in the junior classes – infants through second class – and a pupil-teacher ratio of 29:1 in senior classes – third through sixth classes.
The school in question is included in the urban dimension of the programme and is eligible to receive supplementary grant aid of £7,590 towards the provision of suitable educational supports for the pupils concerned. The school was not considered eligible for additional teaching staff based on the level of concentration of at risk pupils in the school as reflected in the Educational Research Centre survey outcome.
Where individual schools are concerned about the outcome of the survey in respect of their school, they may make a submission to my Department outlining their circumstances. These submissions will be referred to the Educational Research Centre for consideration. The situation of these schools will then be considered further.
To assist schools in making the best use of the extra resources now being provided, an enhanced support structure is being put in place to assist teachers in putting the scheme into practice. The support structure will provide training in the understanding of educational disadvantage and the delivery of targeted supports.
The staffing of a primary school for a particular year is determined by reference to the number of pupils enrolled in the school on 30 September of the previous year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule. The staffing schedule is determined for a particular year following discussions with the managerial authorities and the INTO. The staffing of the school in question will be determined when the schedule has been finalised.
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