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Calls for rural schools to be protected

The Green Party has called on the Education Minister to avoid implementing recommendations that may lead to the closure of rural schools.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

CALLS HAVE BEEN made for the Department of Education to ensure that small rural schools are not closed as fears grow that money-saving recommendations could lead to closures.

Green Party Deputy Leader and Education Spokesperson, Catherine Martin has urged the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, to avoid implementing the recommendations of the new ‘value for money’ report, soon to be published by the Department of Education, into government policy.

It is believed the report recommends that primary schools should have four teachers and 80 pupils to balance numbers and quality outcomes. In today’s Daily Mail, teachers say they fear that cutbacks could lead to the closure of schools with less than 80 pupils.

Policy

“In the mid 1960s the then Fianna Fáil government implemented a school amalgamation policy and as a result the number of 1 and 2 teacher schools was reduced by approximately 1,100.

The Greens say the OECD has recognised the important role small schools play in ensuring the sustainability of rural Ireland.

Martin commented:

But those of us who have grown up in rural Ireland fully understand that these small schools provide so much more than high standards in education. These schools are the beating heart of these communities” … “and at a time when post offices, banks and Garda stations are being closed in rural Ireland we plead with the Minister to keep his ‘hands off’ their schools. Rural Ireland is being targeted but the closure of schools would be a step too far.

“Our minority denominational schools and schools in the Gaeltacht regions also need to be protected by the Minister,” added Martin, who said that value for money should not be a key consideration in shaping education policy.

Martin concluded by suggesting that the Minister should visit some of these schools so that he can “take into account the vibrant and vital role these schools play in their community”.

Read: Dept of Education to overhaul Leaving Cert programme and points race>

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