New policies for small schools are a welcome step in the right

Tuesday, 17th February 2015

New policies for small schools are a welcome step in the right direction – Griffin

“Two new policies to support the sustainability of small schools announced today by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, while not all encompassing, are a welcome step in the right direction for rural communities”, says Brendan Griffin, Fine Gael TD for Kerry.

“The issue of small schools has been of huge importance to me since getting elected to Dáil Éireann. When cuts to the education budget resulted in an increase in threshold numbers for small schools, class sizes in many schools in my constituency began to rise to unacceptable levels.

“The two new policies introduced today will mean changes to the staffing schedule for some small schools and a voluntary protocol for future sustainability for one teacher schools with reducing enrolments.

“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.

“With the economy recovering, now is the time to give back to those who have lost most and who have brought this country through the worst recession in our State’s history. Tax cuts announced in the budget were step one of this process and now changes like those announced today will have a significant impact on the daily lives of thousands of rural people.

“Small schools play an essential role in rural life, especially in more isolated communities and I welcome the package of measures announced today as the first step towards providing security and protecting our small schools. I think it’s important to build on this development by also providing a further reduced threshold for isolated 3 and 4 teacher schools, in line with the derogation for isolated 2 teacher schools. This is something I will be pursuing with the Minister to see if she would be agreeable to the proposal.

“I have consistently done my best to fight for small schools from within the government parties over the last three years when some irresponsible opposition TDs were calling for me to give up. Today’s development comes after a great deal of work by me and others and proves that I was right all along to fight and not to give up on small schools.”

 For Further Information contact Brendan on 087-6528841

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