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Concerns raised over deficiencies at city Gaelscoil

June 26, 2010

Concerns have been raised by school inspectors about teaching and management at a Gaelscoil operating from a business park.

The whole school evaluation (WSE) report by Department of Education inspectors who visited Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers in Cork last November shows serious deficiencies in leadership and also found that no child protection policy was in place.
The 94-pupil school was set up in 1987 and was previously located in a GAA grounds and in rooms rented from a local secondary school, but is currently located in a business park on the Mallow Road on the city’s northern outskirts.

The inspectors found the school has had significant difficulties recruiting fully qualified teachers in recent years and all the current staff have been appointed in the last three years. The principal was on administrative leave during the inspection and the deputy principal resigned from his post last autumn, with substitute teachers being appointed for considerable periods over the past number of years.

The inspectors stated that the various changes have impacted negatively on the quality of teaching and learning.
“Significant difficulties are evident in the delivery of the curriculum. Challenges now exist for both the management and staff of the school to raise the standard of pupil achievement and to manage school activities in an effective manner,” says the report on the Department of Education website.

They wrote that the school lacks leadership and there was no in-school management structure. The board of management resigned three years ago but the dedication of the manager acting on behalf of the patron, Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley, was acknowledged by the inspectors.

But, their report states, the school has made very little progress in formulating curricular, administrative or statutory policies required by law. They highlighted shortcomings in the teaching of Irish at the Gaelscoil, the need to prioritise raising pupils literacy and numeracy skills and recommended a full review of provision for pupils with special educational needs.
“The manager’s efforts to solve the school’s difficulties are acknowledged. However, it is necessary to appoint a board of management to support him in this work,” the inspectors wrote.
Acting principal, Máiréad Uí Adhmaill, who was appointed just weeks before the inspectors’ visit, told the Irish Examiner that significant improvements have taken place since then.

“There is a full school management structure in place, staff have worked tremendously hard during the year, and we have put the child protection policy and code of conduct in place,” she said.
“We did recent tests in literacy and numeracy and they have shown significant improvements. We now have a weekly assembly to give awards for the best Irish speakers and had Seán Óg Ó hAilpín here to give out awards during Seachtain na Gaeilge,” she said.

A positive co-operative atmosphere was noted in the school by the inspectors, who also referred to strong parental support for the school and the courteousness of pupils and their interest in their work.
The inspectors said the school’s location is unsuitable, although discussions had been underway about procuring a more suitable site. They found its location in a public business park results in considerable difficulties ensuring pupil safety and, while efforts have been made, further action was needed to guarantee safety during all school activities.

The Irish Examiner – Niall Murray
26 Meitheamh 2010