Positive News for Clare’s Small Rural Schools – Breen

February 18th, 2015 - Pat Breen

“Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade & Clare Deputy Pat Breen commenting on the changes introduced yesterday by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan T.D. to the criteria applied for allocation of teachers said that the “new policies are positive news for Clare’s Small Rural Schools.”

“This is an issue which is of great concern to small schools across Clare and I have highlighted and relayed their concerns on a number of occasions to the Education & Skills Minister Jan O’Sullivan T.D and her predecessor Ruairi Quinn T.D. While Labasheeda National School successfully retained their second teacher on appeal, last year, the current criteria were causing a lot of uncertainty for many of our small schools and their communities and I have long argued that a more flexible approach was required.

In real terms these changes will mean that from the 2015/16 school year 19 rather than 20 pupils will be needed to retain a second teacher, 53 rather than 56 will be needed to keep three teachers and for four teacher schools 83 rather than 86 pupils must be enrolled.

For one teacher schools located more than 8km from the nearest schools of the same patronage and language, the number of pupils necessary will be reduced from 20 to 15. This is a significant step forward in supporting the sustainability of the most rural schools.

The new voluntary protocol for one teacher schools located within 8kms of another similar school will mean that the patrons will be invited to reflect on their future sustainability and to engage on the supports available if they decide to amalgamate. No small school will close under this amalgamation policy unless the patron and community choose to do so.

Small Schools play a vital role in rural life, underpinning the social and economic fabric of their communities. I welcome the package of measures now being introduced which are an important step in maintaining our small rural Schools. I would hope that the Minister will now consider reducing the threshold for isolated 3 and 4 teacher schools, in line with the derogation for isolated 2 teacher schools and I will be pursuing this with the Minister.”