Leitrim VEC are still in limbo over the Senior Traveller Centre in Carrick-on-Shannon which is set to close this month. The Department of Education has failed to inform the committee of the exact date of closure, or what procedures are being put in place for the four full time staff employed there.
Acting CEO of Leitrim VEC, Martin Fallon told the committee that the IVEA sought guidance from the Department of Education recently but were only told that the centres will close “at some point in June” with the dates varying from centre to centre. There will be no Summer programmes.
The Department have said that where possible staff will be reassigned but no specific details have been provided. The IVEA have called the Department’s response “unacceptable.”
Cllr Enda Stenson said it was “unsatisfactory for the staff and students.” He said the situation was “bordering on disgraceful.” He stated that Leitrim VEC has been “left in limbo.”
Mr Fallon said the VEC are building a base of teachers over the Summer to work out teacher allocations for September – but they don’t know if the teachers from the Traveller Centre will be part of the new allocation or will be in addition to it. Mr Fallon said the teachers will also need to update their skills and create new lesson plans if they are absorbed into the vocational school system.
Teacher representative Sinaed Dore said the teachers need time to learn the curriculum and to prepare lesson plans and notes. All VEC members agreed that it will be a big change for these teachers to teach exam students and they will need adequate time for training and preparation.
VEC Chairperson Damien Brennan said the closure of the centre will have a “knock-on effect” to other areas of the VEC.
There is also no direction given for the director of the centre who will hold on to his allowance. As part of the Croke Park Agreement, a job will need to be sourced for him, but Mr Fallon told members that he cannot be given an officer job in the VEC due to the recruitment embargo.
Cllr Francie Gilmartin called the situation “ a disgrace.”
Martin Fallon said the Principal Officer of Education will not allow Leitrim VEC to turn the Traveller Centre into a Youth Reach Centre. The members heard that the premises (once known as Gills Garage) on the Dublin Road is rented and not owned by the VEC.
Cllr Bohan said the decision to close the Traveller centres was made “three years ago” and so procedures should have been long put in place.
The members decided to call upon their Oireachtas representatives in order get answers and deal efficiently with the closure.
St Joseph’s Training Centre, known as the Senior Travellers Centre, was established in 1988 to cater for the education needs of the Travelling community in the County Leitrim area.
Programmes placed an emphasis on the key skills of literacy, numeracy, communications and new technology, while providing a range of vocational options allied with a work experience programme and access to Leaving Certificate exams were facilitated. Travellers will now be subsumed into public schools.