Munster calls on Minister to ensure no school lose a teacher

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has called on the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, to ensure no primary school should lose a teacher ahead of the planned reopening of schools at the end of the month, given the enormous challenges facing schools as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Deputy Munster raised the issue after concerns were raised in recent weeks that several schools in Louth would be losing teachers as a result of changes in enrolment numbers for the coming  academic year.

Deputy Munster said:

“I have received correspondence from parents at St. Patrick’s National School, Harestown, Monasterboice and the  Rampark National School in Jenkinstown, Dundalk  who are very concerned that their schools are due to lose teaching positions ahead of the new school term.

“In St Patrick’s NS in Harestown one teaching position will be lost, which will result in mixed level classes of up to 31 children. Parents have said that this will make physical distancing impossible. This teaching post must be reinstated.

“In Rampark NS, two teaching positions have been lost since last September. The school is six pupils short of retaining both teaching positions. This has left the school in a position where the pupil to teacher ratio in classrooms from first class up to sixth class is 32:1

“Both of these schools will now be operating well above the recommended pupil to teacher ratio of 26:1. This is too high in normal circumstances, but it is completely unacceptable in the midst of a pandemic where physical distancing is central to ensuring the safety of children and staff.

“I raised the situation at Harestown with Minister Foley, and received a response from her office outlining why the school was not eligible to retain its existing staff. It is clear from the response that the department is not taking the additional challenges caused by the current crisis into account in its decision making on staff allocations.

“The views expressed in the response I received from her office do not correlate with statements made by the Minister on this very matter prior to her appointment as Minister for Education. On June 8th in the Dáil then-Deputy Foley highlighted the need for a safe environment for our children, and said ‘under the current guidelines we need more, not fewer teachers. I am calling on the Minister and the Department to include additional places for teachers to reflect the current circumstances.’

“I would suggest that the Minister revert to her previous position on this matter and introduce a freeze on staffing levels this year in all primary schools. The positions due to be lost in St Patrick’s NS and Rampark NS must be reinstated immediately to give both schools every opportunity to reopen safely at the end of the month. This is a matter of public safety and the issue must be rectified immediately.

 

Government must do more to help families with Back to School costs – Gerry Adams TD

Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the government to do more to help parents who are facing mounting stress due to the financial burden of Back to School costs.

Teachta Adams said:

“A report published last week by the Charity Barnardos found that parents are “stressed out, overburdened and fed up” with the high cost of sending children to school. The report paints a stark picture of parents not paying bills or cutting back on other areas in order to meet these costs.

This is supported by a recent survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions which found that 78% of parents are struggling financially with Back to School costs, and that 36% were falling in to debt due to it, including 24% who go to moneylenders, despite these charging enormous interests rates that put families under even more financial pressure.

Parents are stressed trying to provide uniforms, shoes, books, ‘voluntary contributions’, and much more. They have to pay on average €949 to get their children ready for primary school and €1,399 to send them to secondary school. As a result, many children miss out on extracurricular activities or school trips which is a deeply unfair position to put parents in. The vast majority of parents get no assistance with Back to School Costs.

Minister McHugh and the government have an opportunity in the upcoming budget to help parents with Back to School costs. The Minister could begin by increasing the core funding to education and end the use of so-called ‘voluntary contributions’ and by delivering free school books for every pupil”.

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú said:

“There are real alternatives to the current policy being pursued by the government. Last week Sinn Féin published its new policy document “Let’s End Back to School Stress”.

The Sinn Fein policy proposals also call for legislative measures to make uniforms more affordable through the use of Generic Uniforms. It also proposes:

  • A scheme which makes school books free for all children, rolled out over a number of Budgets.
  • An end to school reliance on so-called voluntary contributions by increasing core capitation funding to schools.
  • reform and increase funding for the school transport scheme so that it is more flexible and affordable for parents.

There is a cost of living crisis and the government cannot sit on the sidelines and act as spectators. We have shown them the alternatives, now they need to take them and implement them.”

Notes:

Back to School Allowance Scheme 2019

The Back to School Allowance Scheme doesn’t end until 30 September. Most families in receipt of the Allowance will receive it automatically but there may be some who do not, for example if children are just starting school.

Parents who do not receive notification of an automated payment can make application online at www.welfare.ie To apply on line you need a Public Services Card and a verified MyGovID account. 

If you need a Public Services Card you can make an appointment at www.mywelfare.ie.

Application forms are also available in all Social Welfare Departmental offices, via SMS (text Form BTSCFA followed by your name and address to 51909), from the websitewww.welfare.ie or you can email the Department at BSCFA@welfare.ie.

Information is regularly updated on the Departments website.http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Back-to-School-Clothing-and-Footwear-Allowance.aspx

If a parent has a query regarding this payment they can also LoCall 1890 66 22 44 from 24 June 2019 or by email to bscfa@welfare.ie.

 

Minister for Education must tackle unmanageable back to school costs for families- Gerry Adams TD

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams is calling on the Minister for Education to tackle back to school costs for families. Commenting on the Irish League of Credit Union school survey recently released Teachta Adams said;

“This year the Irish League of Credit Union school costs survey revealed that one third of parents are getting into debt to meet back to school costs . This is a worrying rise in the number of parents facing this challenge .

Worryingly the report also shows increasing numbers of families are turning to moneylenders in an effort to cope with unmanageable back to school costs.

The average back to school cost for a single primary school child is €999  and  €1379 for a child in secondary school. Families can often find these costs further compounded by the wider costs of living .

For many parents, this time of year is one of worry and stress as they face the prospect of the challenging costs associated with children returning to school in September. In addition many families are still waiting on confirmation or receipt of the Back to School Allowance.

Sinn Féin will be launching a policy document shortly to outline the detrimental impact a lack of services and funding is having on schools, parents and children around the state. We will be publishing a series of proposals and will be urging the Government to adopt these”.

 

Munster welcomes announcement of SNA allocations in coming days

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today received confirmation from the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton TD, that Special Needs Assistants (SNA) allocations will be published in the coming days.

Deputy Munster asked Minister Bruton in the Dáil chamber when SNAs would be informed of their job status for the coming school year. In previous years SNA allocations were not made public until July, which left hundreds of SNAs unsure of their employment status when they finished work for the summer.

Deputy Munster said:

“The unions balloted on this issue and 97% of the membership voted in favour of industrial action over this issue. A deal was struck where the Minister committed to publishing the allocations earlier this year, and in the coming years and plans for industrial action were halted.”

“Given that we are now in the middle of May, there were concerns that SNAs would be left waiting for this information again this year.”

“This afternoon when I questioned the Minister he confirmed that the allocations would be published in the coming days, which is very positive news for SNAs.”

“It is a pity that industrial action has to be threatened for the Minister to move on a matter as important as this.”

“It is cruel to leave workers in limbo each year. It leads to huge uncertainty and worry for SNAs, who do invaluable work in the education sector.”

Education Minister failing 23 Dundalk Schools with no access to National Educational Psychological Service – Adams

DSC_3254_6510Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has criticised Education Minister Richard Bruton for failing to ensure that all schools in the constituency have an assigned National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist.

Last week Teachta Adams highlighted the damning fact that 57 schools across Louth are currently without an assigned NEPS psychologist.

Gerry Adams said;

“I am horrified at the situation in Louth which means that 57 schools and their respective population of teachers, children and their families do not have automatic access to an assigned NEPS psychologist.

“It is grossly unfair that some schools can avail of the service while others such as Knockbridge National School, Scoil Bhride, Shelagh, Gaelscoil Dhun Dealgan and second level schools including De La Salle College, St Vincents, St Louis and Dundalk Grammar cannot.

“Moreover the fact that the NEPS service is obliged  to pay for private psychologists’ assessments for children attending schools which cannot access their NEPS psychologist is an inefficient use of resources and amounts to the privatisation of parts of this service.

“I submitted further parliamentary questions to discover what schools in Louth are being denied this service, how many additional staff the Minister intends to recruit in Louth;  how much NEPS is paying each year in private psychological assessments and the number of pupils currently on waiting lists to access a private psychological assessment.

“The responses which I received from Minister Bruton are troubling and will cause distress to parents and children attending the 23 Dundalk schools with no NEPS psychologist.

“Furthermore the fact that the Drogheda NEPS office, which services Louth schools, has a staff complement of 7 psychologists, 4 of whom are on long term leave, would go some way to account for visits to my constituency office by parents who are being told that their children face an 18 month waiting list for psychological assessment, unless of course they can pay for it themselves.

‘So what we have in Louth is a much depleted NEPS service, which, instead of recruiting additional staff has been paying for private assessments.  In fact over the past 5 years €142,272 has gone towards these private assessments.  This begs the question would the Education Minister not have been better off ensuring the full staff complement was maintained instead of looking to the private sector?

“Anecdotal evidence at my office in Dundalk suggests that regardless of whether a school has access to a NEPS psychologist or it accesses assessments through the private sector, children face horrendous waiting lists for their assessments.

“I will be raising this directly with the Education Minister.”