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Priority Questions - Educational Disadvantage

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

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 4.  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  if all DEIS band 1 and DEIS band 2 schools will retain their legacy posts in September as promised this year; and the reason a number of schools have received letters in recent weeks which seem to indicate that they are either losing a legacy post or that post is being subsumed into the number of mainstream teacher posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19684/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn A total of 140 band 1 and band 2 schools will retain the number of legacy posts required by them to implement more favourable pupil-teacher ratios under previous disadvantage schemes for the 2012-13 school year.

A range of factors contribute to determining the staffing requirement for schools, including changes to enrolment and the reforms to the teacher allocation process for 2012-13 school year. As the teacher allocation to schools is enrolment-based, this determines whether schools gain or lose teaching posts from year to year. Changes in enrolment also contribute to the number of legacy posts allocated to DEIS schools from year to year. Some DEIS schools seem to be under the impression that my decision of 21 February implied that they would retain their current number of legacy posts which is based on the 30 September 2010 enrolment. What was decided was that certain schools would retain the favourable pupil-teacher ratios under legacy disadvantage schemes. Therefore, the staffing allocation for the 2012-13 school year, including the allocation of legacy posts, is based on the enrolment on 30 September 2011.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith As Deputy Crowe stated, the DEIS programme has had a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage. That is clear from an ESRI report, and also from the Educational Research Centre in St. Patrick’s College, which showed that in the period 2007 to 2010, there were significantly higher scores for children under the DEIS programmes in reading and mathematics and that those extra supports in the classroom were particularly important.

The Minister, and maybe more so his parliamentary colleagues, gave a clear message to the schools affected that the Minister’s review and that of the Department that he announced in February would reverse the decisions to remove the DEIS supports.

I have had quite a number of schools in touch with me which have received letters from the Department and they are extremely concerned about the news conveyed. According to St. Francis junior national school in Priorswood, there was no mention of legacy posts in a letter from the Department regarding the staffing schedule. Our Lady Immaculate senior school in Darndale currently has nine mainstream plus two legacy posts and it has been allocated its staffing schedule for 2013, which is one of ten mainstream teachers plus one legacy post, but its enrolment has increased. We can understand that if enrolment has fallen, it has a bearing on the overall teaching and support staff, but that is not the position in that school. That school is also losing a learning support teacher.

One other school that we all have seen on television, and the teachers of which we have heard speak in broadcast media, is St. Laurence O’Toole junior boys school in North Wall in Dublin. It has one principal and eight assistant teachers, but from September it will have only five assistant teachers. They clearly understood from some of the Minister’s parliamentary colleagues and some of his party’s public representatives that they would be retaining their staffing complement. The news from the Department has come as a great shock, surprise and disappointment to those schools.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank Deputy Smith.

[78]Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith Thankfully, they outlined to all of us and to the Minister, who knows as well as we do, that there has been significant much-needed progress in those schools. They are extremely disappointed that the Minister’s review is not delivering what they expected and what they were promised.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Deputy Smith referred to a number of individual schools. I do not have the information here and he will appreciate that.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I appreciate that.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn He may wish to write to me or raise them separately. All I want to say is, we have limited resources. There is no political interference by me in the allocation of resources or individual teachers, and that is the way it should be. I think every Member in this House would accept that persons should get it on the basis of need relative to the available resources.

In some cases, there may have been adjustments to the overall teaching allocation as a result of the change in the general allocation model, GAM. As Deputy Smith will be aware, the appeals process now has closed and they will be getting indications of the allocation from the relevant section of the Department in the middle of next week, as I understand it.

I suspect from what Deputy Smith said that he is referring to the original allocation correspondence and, assuming those schools have appealed, the outcome of what they are now getting may be slightly different when they finally get the correspondence next week. However, if he has individual cases, he should bring them to me and I can ensure the appeal process was properly looked at and understood.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I will write to the Minister tomorrow with the details of the three specific schools. These are schools that appreciate that the DEIS programme and its forerunner have been significantly beneficial to children, families and the wider community. They are extremely disappointed that the most recent correspondence from the Department flies in the face of what they understood from the Minister’s communications and decisions towards the end of last February and I would very much appreciate if these schools could be reviewed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt That is not a question. We will proceed to the next one.

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