Dail question put down to Minister for Education on my behalf by Catherine Martin TD
This is the response to the Dail question that my colleague, Catherine Martin TD, submitted to the Minister for Education on my behalf regarding the withdrawal of funding for St. Mochta’s NS.
As you can see, at this stage the Minister has not reversed his decision. The Chair of the school board and the principal are meeting with the Minister next Thursday (29th). Hopefully at that stage, the Minister will have reconsidered.
There will be a public meeting in the school that evening, which I will be attending. I would encourage all concerned members of the St Mochta’s NS / Clonsilla community to attend.
The decision of the Department of Education to deny St Mochtas N.S. funding for its rebuild, even though this was publicly promised last November, is a huge blow to the pupils and the entire community in Clonsilla. Conditions in the prefabs in the school are appalling and it is outrageous that children are expected to learn in them.
The Minister for Education must explain why the commitment made to St Mochtas is being broken. The Green Party will be putting a Dail question to him on this issue.
I will continue to work as part of the St Mochtas Task Force, to put pressure on the Department to provide the promised funding.
Last week I attended a meeting with parent and teacher representatives from Castleknock Educate Together National School, Castleknock National School and St. Brigid’s National School, regarding potential threats to special education resources. I have written to the Minister for Education seeking a guarantee that the rollout of new procedures for the allocation of such resources for students with special educational needs will not lead to current services being undermined.
The current system for the allocation of teaching resources for children with special needs is not working, as it is heavily dependent on parents having to pay privately to obtain a diagnosis of special educational need. While this needs to change, the new model for allocation of special education teachers, which is based on broad categories such as the schools “socio-demographic catchment area” and its standardised test results, will undermine the resources already allocated in many schools in Dublin 15.
The new allocation rules are set out in a document produced by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) – Delivery for Students with Special Educational Needs. This is currently being piloted in a number of schools across the country. However, there is major uncertainty as to when the Government will determine whether to implement the new system or not. While the NCSE document speaks of a two or three year transition phase, the implication seems to be that after this, schools that have built up special educational teaching resources over the years, could lose these if they did not fit with the new guidelines. In many local schools in Dublin 15, this could result in the undermining of existing one-on-one or small class teaching that is provided to pupils with moderate special educational needs.
I’ve written to the Minister for Education on this issue. It is absolutely vital that the Minister clarifies what results are being obtained from the schools where the new rules are being piloted. Further, the Minister needs to reassure parents that existing special educational resources will not be undermined. While many schools currently have insufficient special educational teaching hours, the solution to this cannot be to take these resources away from other schools. Further investment in the education system can address the needs of all children with specific educational needs.
The issue of access to schools for children from minority faiths or of no faith at all, is one that is growing across Dublin West. Currently, section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act, 2000, allows primary and secondary schools with a religious ethos discriminate in granting admission to their school.
As we know, the vast majority of primary schools in the country are still under the patronage of the Catholic Church. This becomes a major issue for parents who aren’t of the Catholic faith, or indeed, children who aren’t baptised at all.
The Green Party are proposing to amend the legislation to remove the ability of publically funded schools to deny a child entry solely on the basis of religion. Such a change has also been recommended by the Human Rights and Equality Commission.
While schools will still be allowed follow their own ethos, no child should be marginalised in Ireland due to their faith or absence of faith.
I’ve written to Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan to request that she makes provision for a gaelcholáiste in the Dublin 15 / East Meath region in the next round of new secondary school planning her Department issues.
The Dublin 15 / East Meath region currently has a number of thriving gaelscoileanna. However, after completing their primary education, there is no local provision for these children to continue their secondary education through the medium of Irish. Colaiste Mhuire, which is currently the sole option for students in this area, is both a significant distance away and not easily accessible from the Dublin 15 area. No one would ever suggest that students should have to travel that distance in order to attend an English language secondary school.
There is a proven demand for a gaelcholáiste in this area, as over 450 names have been registered with the committee seeking to establish the school – Coiste Bunaithe Choláiste na Tulchann – for entry from 2017 on.
I strongly believe that parents should be supported where they wish to have their children educated in Irish. On Fingal County Council, I have worked within as part of the Development Plan process, to have references to Irish language schools incorporated in that document. I’m calling on Minister O’Sullivan to ensure that planning can begin for a gaelcholáiste in Dublin 15.
I’ve been in touch with parents and teachers at Scoil Cholim NS regarding road safety concerns for children arriving and leaving the school each day. I recently visited Scoil Cholim during the morning school run along with some parents to see the issues for myself.
There is significant concern that some people are parking outside the entrance to the school by pulling up on the cycle path that many parents and children use each morning. This causes a real risk as it blocks lines of sight and forces pedestrians and cyclists back onto the footpath. I’ve requested the installation of bollards to prevent motorists being able to park up on this cycle lane.
I’ve also requested that the pedestrian barriers at the Porterstown Road – Diswellstown Road cross roads be extended. This is now an extremely busy crossing point with students going to both Scoil Cholim and Luttrellstown Community College. The current barriers are very short and really do nothing to control the movement of students across the point at busy times. Something similar was done at St Mochta’s NS last year and it made crossing significantly safer.
Fingal County Council have committed to examining the traffic issues that I have highlighted and to look at the provision of funding for these measures in next year’s Budget. I will be arguing strongly that these measures are implemented, as there are now two busy schools on the Luttrellstown campus and it is essential we take all measures to make access to it safe for students and parents.
It is great to see that St Mochta’s have put in their planning application for the demolition of the exiting school and the construction of a new building on the current site. This has been a long time coming, and I warmly welcome it.
This is a really large national school with four separate streams, giving 32 classes in total. The current school is absolutely no longer fit for purpose. The building is far too small for the population of over 800 pupils. Some of the prefabs in which students are taught are dark and extremely damp.
A Task Force (of which I’m a member) was established by the school’s Board of Management a number of years ago, to progress this building project. It has gone to great lengths to keep both the school community and those living in the vicinity informed about the development. A briefing was given in November 2013 during the public meeting on the proposed closing of the Porterstown level crossing. Then late last year, the school organised a public meeting where the architect went through the plans in detail, in order to hear and address any concerns about the design.
A big school like St Mochta’s generates significant traffic. A lot of work in designing the layout of the new building has focused on reducing this as much as possible. Once finished, the new layout will have a much larger drop off area for parents, which will no longer be directly on the Porterstown Road. This will go some way to reducing current levels of congestion.
The architects have also incorporated the old ‘White School’ building into the new design, so this Clonsilla landmark will be preserved and continue to have a function in the school.
Real thought and attention has gone into the planning of this new school building. I strongly support it and I hope that it is swiftly granted planning permission by the Fingal County Council planners.
I’ve written to the new Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan to gain clarification about when the Department of Education intends to meet with the Board of St. Mochta’s NS to give final sign off on the plans to rebuild the school. The school has had its design plan and budget for the rebuild completed for a number of months. However, it has been waiting for an appointment with the Department in order to go through these plans so it can then move onto the next stage and be in line to receive funding.
This appointment has been pushed back on a significant number of occasions since the start of the year. Parents and teachers in the school are becoming increasingly concerned about the additional delays that are attributable to the Department. I wrote to Ruairi Quinn shortly before he resigned to see why the Department was dragging its feet, but while the Minister acknowledged my query, he did not give me specific information.
While this situation continues, the pupils in the school have to learn in overcrowded and damp facilities, which are totally unacceptable. Minister O’Sullivan needs to act quickly and secure a meeting for St. Mochta’s with the Department.