Dáil debates

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Education (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)


5:00 pm

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)

I would not be a Dáil Deputy today had I not moved to Tallaght for a job 40 years ago and I am proud of that fact.

As regards this legislation, I cut my political teeth in the education sphere. I was given an opportunity by the then parish priest of St. Mark's, Dr. Richard Sherry, who is now in retirement in Donnybrook, when he appointed me to the local school board. Arising from that interest, I was appointed to the County Dublin VEC in 1985. This was a very important period in Tallaght and the region, and I always respected and applauded the importance of the vocational education committee. It gave me and many other colleagues from all parties the opportunity to work with school principals and school communities and I was involved with many boards. I sometimes regret that the VEC in County Dublin has moved off and a different view has been taken with regard to representation on boards, which may be fair enough. It was, however, an important time in my community and in many other communities for the development of school services. The VEC played a key role in that regard.

The proposals in this Bill are reasonable in respect of County Dublin VEC and they include the involvement of Dún Laoghaire VEC. I do not know the views from Dún Laoghaire but I would hope that County Dublin VEC as we know it, and taking account of the needs of the Dún Laoghaire area, will still be the organisation I have known over the past 30 years. I do not wish to be parochial but I would hope the headquarters will remain in Tallaght. I am sure if Deputy Quinn is in government he will ensure this will be the case.

I support the view expressed by a number of my colleagues, including a former Minister, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, who raised this question about unregistered teachers. This issue is receiving a lot of attention and I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Haughey, is aware of the issue. One has to be sensitive at a time when anyone involved in education is clearly in need of employment. The point has been made to me by teacher representatives and by others involved in community education that the question of trained teachers should be an important part of Government policy. The point has been made that other untrained persons could find employment in our school system, including supervision. There is a case to be made for trained teachers who have gone through training college and they need employment. Other colleagues have made this point and I suspect the Minister will consider it carefully.

Valid points have been made in the debates on this legislation in the Upper House and here in the Dáil. Like myself, my colleague, Senator Ann Ormonde was a member of County Dublin VEC for a number of years. During the Seanad debate she made the point about the worth of the work of the VEC. The current chairman of County Dublin VEC is Labour Party councillor, Ken Farrell, who is an old friend of mine. He was in Tallaght this morning for the opening of the Brookfield youth and community centre. It is important to speak up for the VEC even though there are views about duplication of services and funding mechanisms. I am a strong supporter of the VEC, not only because I was a member for a number of years but also because I know the work it has done.

My region has a number of community colleges. All the schools in the Tallaght region are doing an excellent job. I refer to the community colleges in Firhouse, Willington and St. Macdara's and the Mount Seskin community college in Jobstown. They do a great job and they reach out to the community in a positive way. I had the opportunity and the privilege to be the founder chairman of Jobstown community college in 1986. Those Deputies who are familiar with Tallaght will know that Jobstown is a challenging area. I will not say which Fianna Fáil Minister it was but Deputies can guess to whom I am referring. This man was of the view that the building programme for that college in Jobstown would not proceed but a strong local fight was put up and the success can now be seen in that college. A number of its students are coming in to see all the local Deputies next week. It is important to acknowledge what the VECs have done in many communities. Other speakers have listed the names of all the schools in their areas. If the Acting Chairman wishes, I can name every Tallaght street.

Deputies will be parochial when speaking in any debate on education and will raise issues of concern to them. Deputy Quinn and I shared some Dáil business a few weeks ago on staffing levels and the difficulties at St. Joseph's special school in Balrothery in Tallaght. I know the school appreciates the support. Every school has an issue, a demand and a challenge. We should be brave enough to speak up for schools in our areas which have particular difficulties and challenges. A special school in any community falls into that category.

The newly established VEC should also take account of the developing needs of educational facilities. House building has stalled in my constituency but there are still gaps in education. In Tallaght west and the new City West estates and over the far side to Firhouse, to Ballycullen, there are gaps in educational facilities. I have raised those issues on a number of recent occasions. Educate Together in Tallaght is running a campaign and there is a need for permanent facilities in Holy Rosary school in Ballycra and in Scoil Chaitlin Maude in Knockmore. I hope I will be forgiven if I mention those issues in the context of this Bill.

I hope the Tánaiste will have an opportunity to listen to many of the points which have been made from all sides of the House. I hope she gets it right as it is important for the future of education in all our constituencies that she would do so. I hope she takes account of the concerns which are being expressed with regard to untrained teachers.


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