Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Adjournment Matters

Schools Recognition

5:35 pm

Photo of Ciarán CannonCiarán Cannon (Galway East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising this matter and giving me an opportunity to outline the current position on the recognition status of Mol an Óige national school in Ennistymon, County Clare. The school in question which implements the Steiner approach to education was initially awarded provisional recognition in 2008. This was extended each year until October 2012 when a three year extension was granted. The current position is that the school has provisional recognition until 31 August 2015. This extension is designed to give the school a sufficient opportunity to satisfactorily meet the criteria for recognition agreed in 2008. The extension will not prevent the school from receiving permanent recognition in the interim if the criteria for recognition are met. As the Senator is aware, all recognised schools, regardless of their philosophy or ethos, are required to comply with the Education Act 1998 and the rules for national schools. Specific criteria relating to patronage, the board of management, implementation of the curriculum, admissions policy and procedures for the appointment of teaching staff must also be satisfied by schools seeking permanent recognition. Such recognition is contingent on schools demonstrating they meet these requirements satisfactorily.

A process is under way with regard to the request for permanent recognition from the school. This process is based on its progress in fulfilling ten undertakings committed to by its patron in 2008. These undertakings were based on requirements outlined in the Education Act 1998, the rules for national schools which all recognised schools must meet and the aforementioned criteria which all schools applying for permanent recognition must satisfy. One of the undertakings is that the school will follow the primary school curriculum. It is important to note that the decision on full recognition depends on the satisfactory implementation of all the undertakings. Officials from the Department met the school authorities last October to discuss the current position on the undertakings and the school's application for permanent recognition. I understand substantial progress has been made. However, significant issues remain to be resolved, particularly in respect of curricular provision for pupils in infant classes. I understand the Department and the school have committed to ongoing engagement with the objective of enabling the school to meet the permanent recognition criteria as soon as possible.

If a school is to be considered for permanent recognition, it must make an application stating it has met the criteria for recognition of new primary schools, which include the requirements to follow the 1999 primary school curriculum, comply with the rules for national schools and demonstrate that enrolments are sufficient for the long-term viability of the school. The enrolment requirement is usually but not always confined to a period of three years. The Department has granted permanent recognition to 45 schools since 2008, the majority of which are in developing school areas. The recognition process for each of the schools was undertaken on a case by case basis and varied in duration for that reason. All of the 45 schools granted permanent recognition met all of the criteria satisfactorily. A number of schools granted provisional recognition prior to 2008 are still awaiting permanent recognition, as they do not meet all of the criteria required to be met.

I again thank the Senator for giving me an opportunity to outline the position on the application for permanent recognition from Mol an Óige national school.


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