Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Question 12: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason, with redundancies in the primary sector and the prohibition on permanent appointments in the primary sector, he has not facilitated a teachers' panel for Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge while facilitating panels for other patronages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14450/11]
Over half of the gaelscoileanna are under Catholic patronage and redeployment from these schools is through the relevant diocesan panels. An Foras Pátrúnachta is seeking a separate panel for gaelscoileanna under its patronage. A key issue for my Department is how best to facilitate this request in a manner that avoids the inherent inefficiencies of a separate panel for a relatively small number of schools out of the 3,200.
Given our budgetary situation we need to have sufficient flexibility in the redeployment arrangements to ensure that surplus permanent teachers in all schools regardless of patronage type can be redeployed to vacancies wherever they exist.
A separate panel for An Foras Pátrúnachta will be considered in the context of ongoing discussions with the relevant education partners in regard to the additional arrangements that are now necessary to achieve the redeployment of all surplus permanent teachers, including those in gaelscoileanna under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta.
The Government's 20-year strategy for the Irish language cited research showing that Irish was taught to a very good standard in only half of primary schools, in one third of the classes Irish was taught through the medium of English and pupils in just over half of lessons inspected were able to express themselves satisfactorily in Irish.
The key concern for many in the gaelscoileanna sector is that there will be a reduction in standards and quality in terms of many of these teachers coming forward. Should An Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna LánGhaeilge not have the right to insist teachers on it panel have a required level of Irish that will allow them to teach in a gaelscoil? The reality is that the Irish of many teachers is at best rusty and not of a high enough standard to teach children solely through the medium of Ireland. That is the key concern. Those in the sector are worried that the quality of Irish teaching and service provided for the pupils concerned will be reduced by many of the teachers coming through the system.
There are two issues involved, the first is the current employment control framework which is part and parcel of the IMF troika deal under which we cannot hire new teachers or make permanent contracts for existing teachers temporarily employed until such time as all supernumerary teachers on panels are redeployed into classrooms where they are required.
Therefore, our hands are tied.
I will put the second question back to the Deputy. It is a requirement for students leaving our second level system - they started their leaving certificate examinations today - that, if they wish to apply to one of the five teaching colleges across the country, they need honours Irish. Otherwise, they will not be accepted. An Foras Pátrúnachta and the other groups within the gaelscoileanna movement will need to address the issue. Is the Deputy saying that a young person entering the training system with an honours Irish qualification in his or her leaving certificate does not have the standard of Irish required to teach in a gaelscoil upon coming out of the college three years later?
What I am saying is that some people will be rusty and not everyone will have a competency in the Irish language. This is the key concern among gaelscoileanna, which are worried about the quality of Irish among those entering the system. The gaelscoileanna are unique and many of their teachers are driven where the Irish language is concerned, which is reflected in the quality of teaching. The concern is that, if new teachers are not up to the required standard and are rusty, it will be reflected within the gaelscoileanna system.
We can explore this matter further. We need to find a system whereby reserve panels comprising teachers who have become supernumerary can be integrated. We have 29 or 33 - I am unsure, as I am going by memory - panels of employment within the Roman Catholic Church ethos. We should have regional panels in Munster, Leinster or Connacht or something else that relates to reasonable travel distances. This system would be extended to all primary school patrons. We need to find a way of efficiently and quickly redeploying teachers who are supernumerary in their current locations while addressing the Deputy's issue, that is, whether teachers being redeployed from one ethos to another, including a language ethos, should undertake refresher courses, given that they qualified with honours Irish to get into the teaching colleges in the first instance.
It depends on the length of time a person has been out. He or she might not have been using the language. Anyone who views the situation objectively would agree that the level and quality of Irish held by the teacher entering the school would be affected and the language within the school would be dumbed down, which no one, including a new teacher, wants to see. Teachers are concerned about getting jobs. There is an argument to consider the matter in terms of the schools in question. While people claim they are committed to the roll-out of the Irish language and so on, we can make a difference where matters such as this are concerned. There is no large cost factor. If we get our act together, the quality of teaching will bear fruit in terms of the outcomes for children passing through those schools.