New pilot scheme to support small schools launched

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today launched a two-year action research project aimed at supporting small rural schools. The project aims to encourage small schools to cluster together in local groups, enabling them to collaborate, identify common challenges and work together on solutions.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is closely involved with the project, participating on a working group alongside school management bodies and other stakeholders as part of the Primary Education Forum.

The plans will see the establishment of six project clusters of small schools formed in the following areas:

  • Galway x 2
  • Donegal x 1
  • Kerry x 1
  • Wicklow x 1
  • Waterford x 1

Each cluster will consist of between three and five schools and will be supported by a part-time local coordinator, sponsored by the education partners. It is expected a small number of schools will participate in the pilot scheme, but the potential long-term learnings would benefit small schools generally. The local coordinator will work under a national coordinator who will report to the steering group. Integral to the project will be the undertaking of an evaluation and publication of a final report, to include analysis on the scalability of the actions involved. This will form the basis of ongoing dialogue at the Primary Education Forum.

Responding to the launch of the project, INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:

We are delighted to have been centrally associated with the development of this project which emanated from the 2019 Symposium on Small Schools. Small schools are the lifeblood of our rural communities and we must ensure that they are adequately supported in the coming years. While it has taken us some time to get to this juncture, with progress necessarily delayed during the pandemic, it will be good news for the small schools who will initially benefit from the supports provided. The INTO will seek to ensure that the benefits of  this scheme accrue to all of Ireland’s small schools and will be an active member of the working group to support the initial pilot.” 

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