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Topical Issue Debate - School Staffing

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I thank the Ceann Comhairle’s office for allowing me raise this matter and I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, for being here. As he is aware, I have been in close contact with the staff of St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school in Clonmel in recent months. Like a number of other schools in my constituency, it was concerned about future staffing levels following the announcement of budget 2012. St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school is one of many around the country that currently has two legacy posts under the disadvantaged areas scheme. The Minister of State will be aware that as a result of the announcement last December, the school was due to lose both posts in the 2012-13 academic year. While staff at the school were delighted to hear on 21 February that following careful analysis by the Department of the impact of budget measures on disadvantaged primary schools the Government had agreed to the retention of 235 legacy disadvantaged posts in DEIS band 1 and band 2 primary schools, St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school was, unfortunately, informed on 7 March that it would not retain its two legacy posts for the 2012-13 academic year. The principal has been in contact with the Department and has explained that the school fulfils the criteria for retention of these posts, namely, it is a DEIS band 1 school as listed by the Department in the schools support programme in respect of which it has two concessionary disadvantaged posts. A number of other schools around the country wherein this situation is replicated have had proposed cuts reversed.

Perhaps the Minister of State will explain the reason this school has been informed it will lose its two legacy posts despite the announcement made in February and despite that other schools in similar situations have retained their posts. I am sure he is aware that St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school was omitted from Appendix C and from the list of schools in the final section of the report when published. When the principal raised this with the Department at the time, he was told to wait for official written notification on the matter, which was due on 7 March. Perhaps the Minister of State will detail the reason for this omission and say if it led to the school being informed it was to lose these two posts. I am also interested in hearing if the Minister of State is aware of any other schools which were omitted from the report.

I am sure the Minister can understand the concern among the staff and parents of children attending St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school. I urge him to ensure this situation is resolved. It is unfair and wrong for one school to be singled out, in particular given the standard of education and record of the school concerned.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I am replying to this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn.

[654]Two disadvantage concessionary posts were allocated under the disadvantaged areas scheme to reduce class sizes at St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school. With the introduction of DEIS in 2005 and the more favourable pupil-teacher ratios for band 1 DEIS schools, these posts were subsumed into the school’s overall DEIS allocation to ensure that the appropriate pupil-teacher ratios could be implemented. The school does not have any teaching posts over and above its entitlement under DEIS from previous disadvantage schemes and, therefore, it was not among the 140 DEIS band 1 and band 2 schools included in the recent report on the impact, in terms of posts, that certain budget measures would have on these schools, the main focus of which concerned additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes predating DEIS.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012-13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012, which is available on the Department’s website. This includes details of the reform of the allocation process, which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. Applying the new staffing schedule for band 1 DEIS schools to the school referred to by the Deputy, the school is due to lose one mainstream class teacher for the 2012-13 school year due to falling enrolment. The overall objective of the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the general allocation model, GAM, combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved low incidence resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner. The allocation processes also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent appeals board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the circular referred to above. The appeals board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the staffing appeal board was 23 March 2012. The school to which the Deputy refers has not submitted an appeal.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I am disappointed with the content of the Minister of State’s reply. The school in question has been in contact with the Department on several occasions, which I understand will be accepted as an appeal. However, it is desperately unfair that this school in Clonmel, which meets the criteria of a DEIS school, was left out of the review. I do not wish to be critical of the Government of which I am a member but I am disappointed that St. Oliver Plunkett’s national school, which meets the criteria set down by the Department, was not included in the review. I ask that the Minister of State reconsider this decision. I will not let this issue lie. What happened is totally unfair and unjust. The school meets all the relevant criteria and this decision should be reversed.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon: Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon I understand and take on board the Deputy’s concerns. The school was not included in the recent review process because it was not originally impacted by the budget decision. The school will lose one post in the coming school year due to falling enrolment and not as a result of the budgetary decision.

If the Deputy wishes to take up the case with me on an individual basis, I will undertake to work with him to address his concerns. I must clarify again for the Deputy that the school was [655]not included in the review process undertaken by the Minister, Deputy Quinn, because it was not impacted by the original budget decision and is losing a post as a result of an overall fall in enrolment.

Sitting suspended at 5.40 p.m. and resumed at 5.45 p.m.


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