Greenhills National School Amalgamation

I raised the issue of Greenhills National School Amalgamation today, March 10th, in the Seanad during a commencement debate. I have corresponded with the Department of Education in relation to this amalgamation since early 2014 seeking clarification and assurances for parents on a number of aspects of the amalgamation of St. Paul’S Girls Senior NS, St. Paul’s Senior NS and St. Peter’s Boys NS. The text of the motion I out down is below along with my script and Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s response.

“The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to comment on the amalgamation of three Greenhills national schools in Dublin 12; St. Paul’s Girls Senior NS, St. Paul’s Girls Junior NS and St. Peter’s Boys NS; what extra buildings, resource teachers are being made available; are all current facilities for the Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD Unit in St. Peter’s NS and other resources transferring and could he make a statement on the matter in respect of adequate space for outdoor and indoor facilities for the numbers of pupils transferring.”

I welcome the Minister to the House. This is an ongoing issue and I raised it as an adjournment motion around this time last year and held a public meeting on it for information purposes as communications between the Department, the Archdiocese, School staff, boards of management and parents had been very poor leaving many parents confused and unclear about the amalgamation process that was proposed. While the amalgamation process is now underway as of September 2014, many parents are still unsure of what is in store for their children attending one of the three schools; St. Paul’s Girls Junior NS, St. Paul’s Girls Senior NS and St. Peter’s Boys NS and the Autism Spectrum Disorder Unit within  St. Peter’s Boys NS. Parents have expressed a number of concerns to me which I wish to raise with you Minister, that I hope you can address.

Some parents are dissatisfied with (i.) the short time frame for consultation with parents and (ii.) the unsatisfactory accommodation arrangements for boys in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) unit at St Peters (iii.) the apparent lack of space at St. Paul’s campus at present in terms of adequate classroom space provision, a cookery room and additional resource teachers that are required.

There are now more pupils located on the St. Paul’s site and I would appreciate if the Minister could explain how the pupils are going to be facilitated in terms of resource teaching, classroom space and cookery facilities as I mentioned above. In addition, if he could outline how the ASD Unit pupils are going to be accommodated in a smaller, less spacious environment and can the Minister comment on whether a sensory room will be provided for the ASD pupils as has been the case in St. Peter’s.As I understand it, on Tuesday  February 24th, St Peter’s school advised parents that the amalgamation of the schools, onto the St Paul’s site, would go ahead in time for the school year staring September 2015.

Can the Minister clarify how exactly the amalagamtion will be rolled out in terms of classes to be moved and give a concrete time-frame for this? Parents have been advised by the Archdiocese that, “the reorganisation of the three schools in Greenhills parish will take place this September 2015.  Negotiations have recently recommenced and the finer details are being ironed out.  As soon as an agreement has been reached between the three schools as to how our boys will be accommodated, we will communicate this to you.” This is an unsatisfactory process and indicates decisions being made in haste on the basis of insufficient information.  It is extremely important that there is clarity as to what will happen in September and that the boys will be schooled in safe and good quality accommodation. Many parents are not happy that the facilities currently provided at St Peter’s will no longer be provided at the St Paul’s site because accommodation there will be committed to accommodating all the boys from St Peter’s.  This accommodation will be inadequate because there will be insufficient space for facilities other than class rooms such as resource rooms.  How is this issue to be reconciled? Your comments are appreciated Minister.

 

Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s Response:

Commencement Matter Opening Statement

I wish to thank the Senator for raising the matter as it provides me with an opportunity to clarify the position in relation to the amalgamation of the three national schools in Greenhills, St. Paul’s Senior Girls’, St. Paul’s Junior Girls’ and St. Peter’s Boys’. In January 2014, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul the Apostle transferred the trusteeship of St. Paul’s Senior National School to the Dublin Archdiocese. This transfer meant that the three primary schools in Greenhills Parish were under Diocesan responsibility and the Patron deemed it an opportune time to review the provision of Catholic Primary school education in the Parish. The Patron’s office subsequently commenced discussions with the Boards of Management of the three schools regarding the future requirements for Catholic primary education in Greenhill’s Parish.

 Following a number of meetings, agreement was reached with the three Boards that there would be a Junior and a Senior co-educational school on the St. Paul’s site. Taking into account representations from the three Boards that sufficient time would be allowed for the smooth transition, it was decided that the two new schools would commence operation in September 2015. The Patron’s office has confirmed that accommodation for the children in the ASD Unit has been a major consideration in these negotiations. While the junior school already has an ASD Unit, I am aware that the senior school has also agreed to establish an ASD Unit following a request from the National Council for Special Education. My Department has confirmed its willingness to provide grant aid to both schools to establish these Units which will also include sensory rooms. My officials will continue to work closely with the schools to ensure that this permanent accommodation is put in place. In the meantime, the schools are undertaking conversion works to the toilet areas to facilitate the co-education arrangement from next September and my Department is providing grant to the schools for these works.The schools have decided that the introduction of co-education will be on a phased basis in the two new schools. Co-education will commence with Junior Infants in September 2015 in the new Junior School. The current single sex classes will remain unchanged for the next number of years to allow the transition to take place. These single sex classes will be accommodated in either the new Junior or the new Senior school. In some cases, there may be agreement with parents for other classes to become co-educational. This is a matter for the school community to decide.

 The two schools will be known as Holy Spirit Junior Primary School and Holy Spirit Senior Primary School.The mainstream staffing levels in the schools will comprise Principal and 12 mainstream classroom teachers in the junior school and Principal and 11 mainstream classroom teachers in the senior school as well as two special class teachers. In addition, 3 amalgamation concessionary teaching posts will be approved between the two schools. The resource teaching and English as an Additional Language (EAL) provision will remain at current levels i.e. the junior school will have 2.6 posts and the senior school will have 2.4 posts. I am aware that in June 2015, the Patron intends appointing a single manager to oversee the transition and assist in establishing two new Boards of Management.

 Concluding Statement

I wish to thank the Senator again for allowing me the opportunity to outline the position and I wish the schools every success in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross-departmental approach needed to improve standards in the childcare sector – Keane

Fine Gael Senator for Dublin South-West, Cáit Keane, has urged the Minister for Education & Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly TD, to introduce a strong cross departmental approach in order to improve standards in the childcare sector. The Senator made her comments while speaking at the Association of Childhood Professionals’ rally outside Leinster House gates today (Tuesday).

“With increased focus on the childcare sector in recent years, there is a great opportunity to achieve higher standards through a coordinated cross departmental approach. This rally is an historic event and I think it is important that the debate is opened nationally to raise awareness at both societal and political levels. I have spoken about childcare on many occasions but we must keep highlighting shortcomings until they are addressed.

“We need better coordination in childcare inspections in the early years childcare sector. For childcare workers we need to see the implementation of continuous professional development (CPD) programme.

“This Government is committed to improving childcare in the context of the early years education sector. It has been evident in the establishment of a new national policy framework; ‘Better Outcomes Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 – 2020’ and the setting up of TUSLA, a new Child and Family Agency tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the health, safety and welfare of pre-school children attending childcare services. Since July 1st 2013, their inspection reports on early years services have been published on-line which is really positive and makes the information publically accessible.

“TUSLA also has remit over inspections of childcare facilities in the state as well as the DES section in the Department of Education and Skills who are currently developing an inspection programme. I am calling for the Department of Education and Skills and TUSLA to coordinate their inspection functions to enable a more streamlined approach to carrying out inspections with the goal of better outcomes for the sector. I support what the Government is doing in terms of pursuing better quality in the sector especially in light of recent media reports on malpractice in certain childcare facilities. I think it is vital that the Minister introduce a more progressive and fair pay structure along with a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme for those working in this sector, similar to structures already in place in the primary, secondary and third level sector.

“It is paramount that all stakeholders comprehend the importance of early years education for personal development of individuals in society. We cannot have good childcare and early education with a satisfied and appropriately qualified and remunerated workforce when we do not have all of the necessary structures in place. Therefore, I am calling on Ministers Reilly and O’Sullivan to introduce single and more coordinated inspections, and the introduction of continuous professional development for early years workers.”

Ends

National Gallery upgrade creating 300 jobs in Dublin- Keane

“The National Gallery upgrade is creating 300 jobs for Dublin and will be the pride of our city when it is finished”, says Fine Gael Dublin South- West Senator Cáit Keane.

“This €30 million project to upgrade the Gallery is being joint funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Office of Public Works and the National Gallery of Ireland itself.

“A great bonus of this project is that it is creating 300 full-time construction and specialist jobs. The works underway include the repair of the Milltown Wing roof, significant upgrading of the Dargan Wing (1864) (and) the Milltown Wing (1903) and the Merrion Entrance and the upgrading of the buildings to current gallery standards. Victorian features and spaces within the buildings are to be reopened for the optimum presentation the Gallery’s wonderful collection.

“Once the project is completed the National Gallery will once again be the pride of Dublin and will be a great attraction for Irish people and tourists alike.

“Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys visited the site today along with her colleague, Minister for the OPW Simon Harris. I am pleased to hear them report that the works are on track and the project is due to be completed in 2016.”

ENDS

Regional jobs and increasing number of graduates central to Action Plan for Jobs 2015 – Keane

“With the creation of over 80,000 jobs since it was first launched in 2012, the Action Plan for Jobs has been a great success. However this year the plan is focused on spreading the recovery to all regions of the country and on building on the potential of local areas like our own area of South Dublin,” says Cáit Keane, Fine Gael Senator for Dublin South-West.

“The Action Plan for Jobs 2015 was launched this morning by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD. This is the next step in the multi-annual process which is working towards delivering full employment by 2018, two years ahead of schedule.

“Specific reforms will be launched this year that will impact on a range of sectors in all areas of the country:
· The Regional Enterprise Strategy will be rolled out shortly across the country. This strategy will include competitive funding initiatives of up to €25 million.
· There will be a national talent drive in which we will work towards increasing by 60% the number of ICT graduates by 2018.
· New measures will be introduced to support start-ups including a new Start-up Refunds for Entrepreneurs Scheme (SURE) tax incentive and a Start-up Gathering to be held in 2015.
· It will be easier to do business in Ireland as the Government will cut the red tape, fully utilise ICT, revoke outdated legislation and support 800 participants in Enterprise Ireland (EI) Management Development Courses.
· Measures will be introduced to improve competitiveness and productivity, including a €39 million fund for businesses to make savings in energy.
· There will be an increased focus on job creation in the domestic economy including measures to support the retail, construction and agriculture sectors.
“When the Action Plan for Jobs was first launched it was against a backdrop of emigration, job losses and a lack of credit for SMEs. Thankfully the economic landscape has changed. We are creating jobs and Ireland is the fastest growing economy in Europe. But this growth has not been evenly spread and many areas have yet to benefit.

“We need to see growth and improvement in all areas of the country. We need to support new business here in Dublin South-West and to provide opportunities for our young people. The Action Plan for Jobs is not just about creating jobs, it is about creating the right type of job in the places where they are most needed.”

ENDS