Tuesday, 15 April 2014
I did not doubt that he knew about it, considering his knowledge of County Clare. He will also know that Labasheeda is a good community. Unfortunately, due to a whole host of circumstances, the school finds itself temporarily in a situation in which its student number is under 20. As we know, 20 students seems to be the cut-off for retaining a second teacher. The school has appealed the decision not to facilitate a second teacher but the appeal was unsuccessful, even though the school clearly demonstrated in its appeal the reasons for the loss of pupils and the projection - in fact, the concrete fact - of an increase in student numbers in 2015 to 2016. The school will have more than 20 pupils next year.
I have always maintained that deciding a school's fate on a specific date without taking other mitigating circumstances into consideration is unfair. We need a multi-annual holistic approach to decision-making. Plus, 16 or 17 additional students next year will not benefit from the suite of opportunities that are currently available with two teachers. Areas such as arts and crafts, music, sport, drama and other extra-curricular activities could be facilitated by two teachers, and are at present being facilitated by two teachers. With the best will in the world, one teacher would find it very difficult to accommodate all of the activities in spite of their best efforts. Therefore, it is better for a school to have two teachers.
I have looked at the appeal submitted by Labasheeda national school and have seen that its whole-school evaluations and records were extremely positive, so I believe the decision is unfair. The Minister should intervene and reverse his decision. He should give some reassurance and clarity ahead of the Easter period and the summer holidays, for the sake of the teachers, parents, pupils and community of Labasheeda, that they will not lose a teacher for the 2014-2015 academic year. As I have said, it has been clearly documented in the appeal submitted to the Department that the school will have 20-plus students the following year. We need to be fair about the matter and adopt a holistic view.
The school has made a big contribution to the area over the years, and given the fact that there is a very good preschool associated with Labasheeda national school, the decision does not make sense. That is why I have taken the step of raising the matter on the Adjournment tonight.