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Written Answers - School Staffing

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 752 No. 2

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 39.  Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the steps he is taking to reduce the impact of budget cuts on rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2728/12]

 57.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  if arising from budgetary curtailments affecting small and rural schools, he is prepared to accommodate technical structures at local level which will allow for the pooling of resources and retention of existing structures thereby preventing the possibility of any situation emerging which might affect the rural, social and economic fabric and recognising the high quality of education traditionally provided in small rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2835/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 57 together.

The staffing schedule at primary level disproportionately benefits small primary schools. It is worth noting that we have 3,200 primary schools across Ireland. Over two thirds of those [305]schools have more than 86 pupils and, as a result, have far higher average class sizes than all of the schools affected by this measure. For example a two teacher school with 32 pupils has an average class size of 1 teacher for sixteen pupils. In contrast, a typical ten teacher school with 272 pupils has an average class size of 27.2 pupils.

It is important to retain a sense of perspective and balance when discussing this matter and to realise the exceptionally favourable supports my Department will continue to provide for small schools.

For that reason, as part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014.

While I acknowledge the concerns raised by the Deputies the budget measure must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to shelter public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times.

The phasing of these measures can provide the schools concerned with time to consider the potential for amalgamation with other schools where this is feasible. The numbers of pupils in these schools is relatively small so it is not necessarily the case that capital investment would be needed to support amalgamation. Each case will have to be assessed on an individual basis to determine the extent and type of accommodation required taking into account the condition of buildings, site capacity etc. My Department would discuss the issues arising with the boards of management of the schools and would aim to provide an appropriate accommodation solution subject to available resources.

Arising from this specific budget measure, I wish to re-emphasise that no small schools will be forcibly closed by my Department and, if amalgamations do take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.

 40.  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the number of posts allocated to primary schools in each county for the teaching of English as an additional language; the number of posts allocated to second level schools in each county for the teaching of English as an additional language and skills; the number of appeals submitted this year by primary schools against a decision by him not to sanction the appointment of a teacher of English as an additional language; and the number of schools to which posts were allocated on appeal. [2962/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Significant support is given to schools by way of language support provision. The level of extra teaching support provided in respect of language support to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible pupils enrolled and the associated assessed levels of those pupils’ language proficiency. There are circa 920 full-time teaching posts in respect of English as an additional language (EAL) allocated to primary schools in the current school year. The corresponding whole time equivalent figure for post primary schools is 210 posts.

72 primary schools appealed their EAL allocation to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board. 29 schools were successful. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

I regret that my Department is not in a position to provide the requested breakdown on a county by county basis. The main focus of the Teacher Allocation Section within my Department at this time is the allocations process for the 2012/13 school year.

Under the proposed reforms for the coming school year the combined resources available for GAM (General Allocation Model) at primary level and learning support at post primary [306]level and language support will be used to create a single simplified allocation process to cover both the GAM and language support at primary level and learning support and language support at post primary level. Schools will have autonomy on how to deploy the resource between language support and learning support depending on their specific needs.

The new arrangements also provide for additional permanent teaching posts to be given to schools with high concentration of pupils that require language support. Further additional temporary EAL support will also be provided, as necessary, to schools that will have high concentrations of pupils that require language support in the 2012/13 school. These allocations will be made on the basis of appeals by any of these schools to the Staffing Appeals Board.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 34.


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