Thursday, 18 October 2007
Ruairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
I acknowledge the presence in the House of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin. I appreciate that she has chosen to reply to this matter, as in my experience this has not necessarily been the practice.
The measure of any good bureaucracy is its ability to be both consistent and flexible at the same time. The allocation of resources, especially public resources, must respect the taxpayer and be fair in terms of distribution, especially when there are so many competing demands. The allocation of an additional primary school teacher to existing school is a good example of what I mean.
The system has worked well in St. Mary's boys national school in Haddington Road. Advance notice in spring 2007 of an increase in numbers resulted in the Department indicating to the school that it would be entitled to take on an extra teacher, which it duly did. In order to do so a classroom was found within the building, but this led to the closure of a pre-school group which affected many parents of children already in the school and others, and the redundancy of two pre-school teachers whose redundancy payments had to be funded out of the internal resources fund-raised by the school, which went for non-visible expenditure.
By the end of September this year, under the bureaucratic system I described with some praise, which I mean, the school properly informed the statistical unit within the Department it was three pupils short of the total number of extra children required. In this instance the unit in question replied that it operated on a numerical basis but an appeals procedure existed. I address this appeal to the Minister who recently visited the school. When she had a brief word with the principal in question, Liam Ó Frighil, he brought the matter to her attention. She may not recall the details as she is a busy person.
The net point of this appeal is the following. We know five extra children will be in the school by Christmas. The school caters for a large section of newcomers, as the school describes these foreign nationals. I will not use the term non-Irish population which is a most insulting designation of people. The Minister may have had a chance to read the documentation sent to her Department which outlines that many of them are people who have come here to ensure the Celtic tiger continues to work. Three of the young children who will arrive in the school before Christmas are Filipinos. They are the sons of people who are making our health system work. By Christmas the school will have the required numbers to meet the understandable criteria that have been set by the Minister and her predecessors in the Department. I urge her to exercise the discretion she possesses to look at the details of the files in her Department, which I do not propose to go into given the time constraints, and to ensure that this happens. The consequence of not doing so is the internal disruption of the school. The Minister will know what that means as she is a professional teacher. It will give rise to mixed classes.
The Minister, Deputy Gormley, who shares a constituency with me will share my concern that the closure of the pre-school and the non-appearance of the extra school teacher will be blamed on the newcomers and their children. That will have a negative effect which none of us wishes to see. I should have acknowledged the presence of another Dublin South-East Member, Deputy Chris Andrews from Fianna Fáil who is seated behind the Minister.
We all know the good work done by both the girls school and boys school. The boys come from junior and senior infants into the boys school. I ask that the Minister read the file of the case carefully and make the decision the three Deputies present would wish her to make.