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Written Answers - School Staffing

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 156.  Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) in County Donegal will lose 50% of its teaching staff if proposed budget measures are implemented; and the immediate steps he will take to ensure that this school in an isolated and historically disadvantaged community can continue to reverse the legacy of disadvantage by alleviating this loss of key staff. [6298/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Given the scale of our economic crisis, adjustments have had to be made across all areas of the public sector. Despite this challenge, the Government has sought to do this in as fair a way as possible. We have protected the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level, continue to prioritise targeted support for the most disadvantaged schools and maintain the overall number of resource teachers and SNAs to support children with special needs. My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year. At a time of great strain in our public finances, we have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources available for the education system are used in the best way possible.

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 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. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented, the threshold for small schools will still be significantly lower than the minimum of 28 pupils that was required for the appointment of a second teacher in schools prior to the mid-1990s. 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. If amalgamations take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.

 157.  Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  if his attention has been drawn to the impending loss of a teacher at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal and the impact this will have on this small school under the patronage of the Presbyterian Church. [6299/12]

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 191.  Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  when details of the appeals process pertaining to the new staffing schedules for one, two, three and four teacher primary schools will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6900/12]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 191 together.

My Department will be notifying schools in the coming weeks of the new staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year. It will include detail of the staffing appeals process and appeal criterion for those small schools that are projecting increased enrolments that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term. 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. Even when all of these phased increases are implemented, the threshold for small schools will still be significantly lower than the minimum of 28 pupils that was required for the appointment of a second teacher in schools prior to the mid-1990s. All schools are being treated equally irrespective of the type of patronage. 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. If amalgamations take place, they will be voluntary and follow decisions taken by local communities and not by my Department.


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