Thursday, 8 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Gregory: I refer to the suppression of a teaching post in the Dublin 7 Educate Together national school, based at Henrietta Street, Dublin 7. This non-denominational national school had a staff of four teachers. The loss of the third assistant teacher post is a disaster for this rapidly developing school.
The immediate effect has been to reduce four classes, two of 26 children each, one of 20 and one of 16, into three classes, two of 30 children and 1 of 28 children. This dramatic change has already had a significant impact on the progress being made by very committed teachers in a school based in temporary premises and which has 17 non-national pupils with special requirements and including a severely autistic child. Because of these circumstances alone, it seems quite unreasonable to suppress a teaching post at disgracefully short notice. This was done by letter which arrived three days before the teacher was removed.
What I find incredible is that this decision appears to have been taken based on an inaccurate assessment of the numbers in the school. The numbers required to maintain the third assistant  teaching post in a developing school for the period of 30 September 2000 to 30 September 2001, is 87 children. The school had 87 children on the roll in September of this year as was required. However, two weeks before 30 September the number dropped by one to 86 children. That was the enrolment specifically on 30 September. One week later on 8 October the numbers in the school increased to 88 children, one child in excess of the numbers required. Despite this fact, the suppression of the post was not lifted.
Will the Minister agree this is bureaucracy gone mad? How could any Minister stand over the removal of a teacher on the basis of a temporary reduction of one child over a two week period? Over the years I have brought the difficulties experienced by many schools to the notice of this House but I have not heard of a school being treated so shabbily or so unreasonably. I ask the Minister to urgently review the case that I have made for the Dublin 7 Educate Together school and to again sanction the third assistant post to the school.
I have watched this school develop from being the aspiration of a group of committed parents in Dublin 7; I have seen them canvass support for that aspiration; I watched them fund raise to help bring their dream to reality; I saw them scour the length and breadth of Dublin 7 to locate a suitable temporary premises which they found in Henrietta Street. They have very praiseworthy plans for a permanent site in the Grangegorman lands currently held by the Eastern Regional Health Authority. All of their efforts have been voluntary based on a belief in an educational ideal for their children and the children of like-minded parents. This is no way to treat these parents, their children, their teachers and supporters.
I am well aware that the Minister may have a script prepared that may not take account of the facts that I have put before the House. As the Minister for Education and Science is not present today to hear my case, I ask the Minister to bring it urgently to the attention of the Minister for Education and Science and to convey to him my belief that an injustice has been done to this school and that the matter be reviewed urgently on that basis.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): I apologise for the inability of the Minister for Education and Science to have been present to hear the Deputy's cogent and well argued case and obvious concern for the position at the Educate Together national school at Henrietta Street, Dublin.
The Minister for Education and Science has asked me to state that the staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.
 The only deviation from the agreed schedule to which I referred is in the case of schools that are experiencing a large increase in enrolments. In such cases an additional staffing post may be sanctioned by the Department of Education and Science if the school meets the defined criteria.
However, the two additional teaching posts were granted on a provisional basis only and since then one post has been sanctioned on a permanent basis. Unfortunately, as the enrolment required for the second post was not achieved on 30 September, the second post cannot be retained at this stage.
However, the Minister for Education and Science has asked me to state that he will arrange for an inspector from his Department to visit the school at an early date to assess the situation. I will bring to the attention of the Minister the case made by the Deputy, particularly his report that there was an inaccurate assessment of the number of children at the school at that time and to ensure that is taken into account in the review of the case when the inspector calls to the school.
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