Thursday, 23 June 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Minister of State for the opportunity to discuss this matter. I understand that neither the Minister for Education, Deputy Norma Foley, nor the Minister of State, Deputy Josepha Madigan, were able to take this matter.
Tramore Educate Together National School has been in existence since 2014. It was mooted as far back as 2008. My first teaching post was in an educate together school. Many educate together schools are developing schools. It takes a significant amount of energy to get these schools off the ground. As they develop and grow, huge stress continues to be placed on the board of management, which works hard, and principals who have to hold the school community together and make sure that it continues to grow.
I engaged with Eilish, the principal, and Corinne, the chair of the board of management for a number of years on an ongoing basis on provision for their school as it grew. Eilish and I met the Minister, Deputy Foley, in April 2021, at which point I thought the problem had been solved and we were making provision for the school to move forward in a way that would suit the school community.
I visited the school again just last week, however, and met Eilish and Corinne in the company of Councillors Cristíona Kiely, Eamon Quinlan and Joe Conway, who were all elected to represent the area, and the story is not a good one as to where we are. Eilish is trying to run a school that is split over three campuses. It has 160 students enrolled at the moment. Some class groups have their own classes; others are in split-level classes. The school is also being asked to have an autism unit. One class is already established and a further one is to open in September. What we have is three buildings. We have a HSE building which houses senior infants, first class and a nurture room. Then we have the Stella Maris building, which is an old secondary school building currently in private ownership. That is being renovated. It holds the junior autism spectrum, AS, classroom and junior infants. Excuse me. That is the third campus. The Minister of State will forgive me for getting mixed up. The Stella Maris building has a second class and third class split class, a third class and fourth class split class and the senior AS classroom. Then there is the Stella Maris hall, which is being renovated. That holds the junior infant class and the junior AS class. To add a fourth dimension, there is a prefab, which houses the fifth class and sixth class classroom.
This is clearly an unsuitable arrangement. Thankfully, Eilish is now what is referred to as a walking principal. By God, she is walking a lot to cover the distance between these classrooms. To complicate matters, a couple of hundred metres up the road there is a renovation project happening in what is referred to locally as the 50 p piece building, which used to be part of the provision of my school, Glór na Mara. It is now consolidated in one building on one site. That has been renovated. The plan seems to be that it has been renovated for Tramore Educate Together National School. However, I know that building intimately, having taught in it, and it is too small to house Tramore Educate Together National School. We therefore have a situation unfolding in which a huge amount of money is being spent renovating a secondary school that is now in private hands, a huge amount of money is being spent renovating the 50 p piece building for intentions I am not clear on, and we have a school for which we have inadequate provision. I want to work with the Minister of State to find a solution for what has been an intractable problem up to this point.