Wednesday, 6 February 2008
Pat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
I thank Senator Ross for raising this issue and apologise for the fact the Minister is unable to be here.
I take this opportunity on her behalf to outline to the Seanad the history behind Glasnevin Educate Together and the reason it does not have permanent recognition at this time. Glasnevin Educate Together school commenced operation in September 2002 as Dublin North Central Educate Together national school. It was given provisional recognition by the Department on the basis that it would provide multi-denominational education for children in the Clontarf-Marino-Fairview area.
When provisional recognition was granted to Dublin North Central Educate Together national school, it was a condition that the patron provide suitable accommodation for the school in the area it intended to serve and that this accommodation was required to be capable of meeting the schools needs until the Department was in a position to provide permanent accommodation, assuming the school ultimately achieved permanent recognition.
Each new school is generally established with provisional recognition, to ensure, among other things, it has long-term viability. Schools attract capital funding only when permanent recognition is awarded, although schools with temporary recognition do receive State support by way of payment of teachers' salaries, start-up and rental grant aid and school transport where appropriate. The patron, however, was unable to find suitable accommodation in the Clontarf-Marino-Fairview area and it set up the school, as a temporary measure, in the model school building in Glasnevin. This building is in the ownership of the OPW. Critically, the Glasnevin area was already served by two other Educate Together schools. Dublin North Central Educate Together national school subsequently changed its name to Glasnevin Educate Together national school.
Four main criteria are considered when granting permanent recognition, namely, whether the school operates under the rules for national schools; whether the school has determined viability in terms of enrolment; whether the school's accommodation is deemed suitable to meet its needs until the Department is in a position to provide permanent accommodation; and whether the school meets a need which is not already being met by existing schools. While the Department is satisfied that Glasnevin Educate Together national school meets the first two criteria, it is not satisfied it has met the third and fourth, although the fourth is the overriding issue, given that Glasnevin is already served by two Educate Together schools.
The Department is in correspondence with the school, which has recently confirmed its desire to relocate to the area it originally intended to serve. In view of this, the Department is assisting the school by seeking a suitable location for a permanent home for it, although the difficulty of this in a built up area should not be underestimated. The Department will be willing to consider any options the school itself might present. When a solution has been found to this aspect of the matter and the school has had an opportunity to demonstrate viability in its new location, the Department will again consider the question of permanent recognition.
I thank the Senator again for raising this matter and for allowing me to explain the history of the issue on behalf of the Minister. I assure the Senator that the Department wishes to see the school properly located and thriving in its own area and will provide any assistance it can to achieve this. I will bring the views expressed by Senator Ross to the attention of the Minister.