TCS - the early years

TCS - the early years - Page 7

The Department of Education presented us with some early problems, and I would like to think that we also gave them an interesting understanding of this new venture that they had asked us to undertake, Historically this was the first time in the history of the State that the Department had to carry out every single stage of providing a school, from the acquisition of the site to the final stick of chalk. At an early stage in that first year the Chairman of the Board and myself were called in to the Department to be given a severe telling off for some of the systems that we had put in place. These included the role of the Year Head, the maximum teaching hours assigned to teachers and some of the structures we had put in place for the weaker pupils. When the officials had exhausted their complaints and were awaiting our act of repentance and our promise of good behaviour in the future we reminded them with some forcefulness that all we were doing was keeping the promises they had made during the previous two years. We suggested that if there had been a change in this policy they should come to Tallaght and explain the new arrangements.

The memories of the long hot meetings of 71-72 were still too fresh, and we were allowed to continue as we started. The reality was that nobody knew what rules applied to us due to the lack of coherent planning that I have already mentioned, If they quoted Memo .V. 7 we replied that we were not a V. E. C. school, and if they sought solace in the rules for secondary schools we pointed out that we were not a secondary school. So with the work of the Department and a considerable input from us we proceeded to work out a way of running these schools. I would be unfair to many very fine officials both women and men in the Department who shared our vision for this new venture if I gave the impression that they were all obstructive.

There was a great level of trust and understanding between us and many of them were ingenious at finding their way around the more petty rules that made no sense in the new system. I remember one particular decision taken in that first year which was never recorded in writing. Over 10 years later when we needed evidence that we had got that concession the official who had moved on was prepared to agree with us and the concession stood. That first year was saddened by the sudden death of Isaac Hanlon the caretaker. I found him collapsed in the woodwork room when I arrived at the school one morning. He was a hardworking and kindly man who had served the school for many years. RIP.

In September 1973 we moved to our new building in Balrothery. We had appointed a second Vice Principal and another Year Head, and a number of new teachers. The building was not fully finished, and many of the facilities were not available to us. We held P.E. classes in the malls and had to put in alternatives for other subjects. Because of an industrial dispute in England we were missing most the equipment for the practical subjects, this start demanded a lot of patience from the teachers and pupils and it gave ammunition to the "I told you so brigade". With sustained pressure we persuaded the Department to allow us to source the equipment directly and a, lot of it arrived in the teachers cars.

The structures were settling in and we were already looking at a series of curriculum initiatives that would be needed in such a diverse school .It was a time of excitement, enthusiasm, frustration, but never dull. The intake of that year eventually gave us the “lift” that we needed when a significant number went on to 3rd level and a number came back to the school as H. Dip students. This was but a first step in the direction we wanted to go in, but other problems remained, mainly our concern for the pupils who were disadvantaged. These took a lot longer to solve and demanded a lot of patience and commitment from all the staff.