Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Schools Recognition


5:00 pm

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Independent)

The motion I raise on the Adjournment is the need for the Minister for Education and Science to grant permanent recognition to Glasnevin Educate Together primary school. I was surprised to find that this school does not enjoy permanent recognition. I would have thought that in present circumstances the Educate Together schools would be the type of educational establishments to which the Government ought to be giving help, grant aid and recognition.

These schools are full of exceptionally dedicated teachers. They are inclusive and take people from all denominations. Much of their funding is got through extremely dedicated fund-raising. It is a great pity that those who help the disabled, who are pluralist and who are inclusive do not receive the formal recognition they merit and deserve.

Let me tell the Minister of State a little about this school. It was originally intended to be set up in Clontarf in north Dublin. That was not possible and it was set up in Glasnevin in 2002. It has 13 teachers and six special needs assistants. It is a well organised and well disciplined school and it is a model of academic excellence. It is a very inclusive school in which there are children with special needs and children from overseas. It opened in 2002 and in 2003 it set up an autism unit. That unit was opened by no less a person than the Taoiseach. I know he is not averse to opening anything, but since he chose to be identified with a school of this sort, its progress might be of interest to him and he might feel it should be given permanent recognition.

The unit set up for autistic children is now based in a portacabin, due to the lack of funds, and can facilitate only six autistic students. The school now has 181 pupils and its waiting lists show the enormous demand there is for places. The waiting list for 2008 is 225 pupils, 164 for 2009, 143 for 2010, 124 for 2011 and 18 for 2012. Hundreds of parents are crying out for a place for their children in this school which, unfortunately, has not been given permanent recognition by the Government.

The school is located in a building built in 1831 and the principal exists in a small basement. The school is denied the essentials of a school of this sort, the minor works grant, which is issued to every recognised school each year. If the school got permanent recognition, it would receive a minor works grant. That grant would entitle it to €5,500 per annum, plus €18.50 per pupil or €74 per special needs pupil. That would be a small amount for the Department of Education and Science, but it would be an enormous sum and make a significant difference to the Glasnevin Educate Together school which survives on fund-raising at present.

The school is unable to find a suitable site, although it has suggested four possible locations, a former fisheries building located next to the school, Mount Temple, a site in Ballymun where Educate Together plans to build its first secondary school and a site beside Dunsink observatory where it does not really wish to go. A minor works grant will not be given until the school gets recognition and it will not get recognition until it has a site. Therefore, the school is in a kind of vicious circle where without one, it cannot get the other.

The school has made many applications and representations to the Department, but is constantly fobbed off. If we got permanent recognition for this school, that would guarantee its long-term future. Currently, it is unable to properly plan its future and that of its pupils and is unable to offer the number of places it would like to autistic children. I appeal to the Minister to make the simple order to give the Glasnevin Educate Together school the permanent recognition that will set it and the pupils on a happier road.


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