Tuesday, 12 July 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Cathaoirleach. The Minister of State, Deputy English, is very welcome. I wish to raise today the issue of the lack of home school community liaison co-ordinators in County Longford, and in particular, in the various towns in that county. The scheme was set up to improve the educational outcomes of children through supporting both their parents and their guardians.
I will give a brief outline here of the number of schools and of the number of co-ordinators in County Longford, namely, St. Joseph's National School, Longford town, St. Michael's National School, Templemichael College, a post-primary school, Scoil Eimear, a primary school, Gaelscoil an Longfoirt, Ballymahon Vocational School, Lanesboro Community College, The Sacred Heart Primary School, Granard and Ardscoil Phádraig, Granard. In total, our allocation for the 2022-23 year is six positions. Some of those are actually shared positions with other schools and in the case of two schools, one is shared with a school in Cavan and the other with a school in Roscommon. There is a total of 2,600 pupils in those schools at present. On foot of the recent announcements on and review of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, programme earlier this year, a number of other schools have come in under this scheme, namely, St. Mel's College Longford, Meán Scoil Mhuire, Longford, St. Mary's National School, Edgeworthstown and St. John's National School, Longford town. This is an addition of another nearly 1,600 pupils into the system.
Based on the existing figures and those numbers in the secondary and primary schools on the old list, Longford should have a total of ten full-time positions to be able to cater for those schools. One of the schools has 534 pupils and just one such position. Moreover, 60% of the school population is non-Irish and it has 30 different nationalities. Among the schools in the county which are covered under DEIS, there is an absenteeism rate of between 18% and 20%. The six home school liaison co-ordinators in place are working extremely hard. I know them all personally. I know the individual schools and I have met these co-ordinators but they are at a crisis point and need support. The reality is that we need to increase the numbers we have. We have 407 pupils in Ballymahon Vocational School, which is sharing a position with Roscommon Community College.If we do not get the necessary intervention that is needed in education and get our kids to school, what will we pay in the long run? Education is key. I gave the figures of 18% to 20%, which, if the Department looks at them, are probably the highest in the country. The only way we are going to address them is by increasing the staff we have in place.
I ask the Minister of State to please consider increasing the numbers for September 2022 and giving support to the home school liaison co-ordinators who are working extremely hard in the schools in County Longford to make sure we increase the number of children we have in our schools.