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.
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.