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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 18 November, 2018
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Joy for locals as second teacher found for school on Aran Island

The teacher for the island’s sole primary school is to be funded privately by Zurich Insurance however.

Scoil3107 A support group photo taken outside the school earlier this summer

Updated 19.05

SCOIL NÁISIÚNTA INIS Meáin, the sole primary school on the Aran Island off the coast of Galway, has fought a protracted campaign in recent times to have a second teacher instated at the school.

Today there was some good news at last for parents and principal (and currently sole teacher) Orlaith Breathnach as global insurance group Zurich Insurance have stepped into the fold and pledged to help fund a second teacher for the school.

The arrangement will only be in place for the next two years however.

The school had lost its second teacher in 2012 when its number of pupils fell below Department of Education regulatory levels.

“We are absolutely delighted, and so grateful, that Zurich have set in, and even if it is only a short-term solution,” islander and parent Máiréad Ní Fhatharta told TheJournal.ie.

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This is an accumulation of our campaign and the media campaign I think you can say, and it’s amazing that we have gotten a result at last.
At the same time it is worrying  and alarming that a private multinational has had to step in. If I were in government I would be wondering greatly about that fact.

Previously the Department of Education told TheJournal.ie that their decision not to furnish the school with a second teacher for the coming academic year could be appealed in October.

In response Breathnach, a Dubliner settled on the island, told us that if something wasn’t done soon the end result would see the island depopulating.

“What will happen is people won’t be happy to send their children to school here,” she said.

What other choice will they have but to leave the island? And very, very quickly the island will be gone.

orlbre School principal Orlaith Breathnach

Meanwhile, CEO of Zurich Europe Patrick Manley said that he and his company are “proud to be able to step in and pledge our support”.

Inis Meáin is a stronghold of the Irish language. The language, and the very sustainability of the island is under threat if families there cannot avail of a good level of education for their children.
But looking beyond that two year horizon, Zurich also supports the community’s efforts to secure the permanent appointment of a second teacher on the island.

Ní Fhatharta, who has one daughter enrolled in the school and hope to send her son there when he’s old enough, agrees.

“I would have my concerns for the future,” she said.

We’ve had a very public campaign with a lot of personal time gone into this. I think it’s quite alarming nationally and a great injustice that we are in this situation in the first place.
That our children should be condemned with a substandard education is very worrying.

In a statement this evening the Department of Education declined to comment directly on the situation saying “it is not the policy of the Department of Education and Skills to comment on matters that do not relate to the approved staffing allocation of an individual school”. 

The enrolment of SN Inis Meáin does not meet the requirement for the appointment of a second teacher.

An appeals process is available to small schools in the event that they can show that their projected enrolments are sufficient to allow them to retain the classroom teacher in the longer term.
The Department has not received a staffing appeal from SN Inis Meáin.

Originally published 16.35

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