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Teachers demand end to attack on small schools 18/04/17

Teachers demand end to attack on small schools

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Press Release

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation

INTO Congress 2017 in Belfast


At the INTO annual Congress in Belfast today, teachers called on governments, north and south, to stop their attack on small schools. They questioned the thinking behind the closure of small schools and the resulting urbanisation of communities in Ireland.

The INTO have asked for a fair and open policy on small schools that considers, not only the financial costs of providing accessible schools, but the value provided to small rural communities that often lack other facilities.

Pushing schools to amalgamate is unfair and short-sighted. The INTO have demanded that the main consideration in any proposed amalgamation of schools should be the needs of pupils, their parents and the wider community. The views of teachers working in the schools should also be taken into account.

Ann Horan from Limerick said at the end of the last school year there were 588 schools with less than 50 pupils. There were 707 schools with 50-100 pupils. This is a total of 1,295 schools educating 71,852 pupils.

“These are small schools, valued by parents and at the heart of the communities they serve. In budget 2012 the Government targeted 2, 3 and 4 teacher schools with increases in the staffing schedule. We now need 19 pupils to appoint a 2nd teacher, 55 for a 3rd teacher and 85 for a 4th teacher” she said.

Ms Horan said the “economic” reason behind this change cannot be defended in times of economic recovery.  Small schools need help now. “My own 2 teacher school has 52 pupils enrolled this year. If we do not have 55 in September we will have 54 pupils and 2 teachers. I have a colleague with 77 pupils in a 3 teacher school.” 

This type of school configuration is unfair to students, to teachers and to the communities served by small schools. As recently as December the INTO made a submission to a Joint committee on arts, Heritage, Regional Rural and  Gaeltacht Affairs calling for the immediate restoration of the 2011 staffing schedule…12 to appoint a second teacher, 49 for a 3rd teacher, and 81 for a 4th teacher. Retention and appointment figures need to be equalised.

Small schools have served rural communities well for generations. It is now time for DES to support our small schools by changing the staffing schedule in a favourable manner. 

Michael Weed from Donegal told the Congress of the similarities between North and South.

Budget 2012 increased class size in all 1-4 teacher schools. The politically taboo words "school closures" were never used though in reality closures did occur. In the North closures were given the innocuous title of "Area Planning." Both North and South INTO should seek to ensure viability of small rural schools in their communities. We should support their retention and formulate a plan for the future that will make them less vulnerable to recessions, austerity and the whims of Government.