Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív says the number of one-teacher schools has increased four-fold since this Government came into power. Budget changes have seen the number of single teacher schools rise dramatically from 11 in September 2011 to 44 currently.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “These figures reveal a sustained attack by this Government on small schools, particularly in rural Ireland. Changes to the pupil-teacher ratio, brought in as part of Budget 2012 has resulted in schools across the country losing teachers and an increase in the number single teacher schools. This threatens the viability of these schools and has heightened concerns among parents and communities in rural areas about the future of their local schools.
“There are now 16 one teacher schools in Galway and Mayo. Many of these schools are in areas with dispersed populations, and the move has almost dismantled the heart of the community. Offshore islands have been disproportionately affected by this increase in single-teacher schools, with 4 out of the 11 islands only having one teacher in their schools. That represents more than a third of all the inhabited islands with schools.
“I am also concerned that four of the schools which have been rationalised are Church of Ireland schools, and could be seen as discriminating against a minority community. It certainly questions the State’s promise to “cherish all the children of the nation equally”.
“I had hoped that the appointment of Jan O’Sullivan as Education Minster last year would see a shift in policy to protect small schools and communities. However is seems as if she is continuing down the same flawed road as her predecessor, implementing policies that are attacking rural communities without resulting in any significant savings for the State. As a result of these decisions, the number of one-teacher schools will continue to rise, while the number of small schools will continue to close, much to the detriment of rural Ireland.
“It’s ironic that the Taoiseach’s home county of Mayo has the largest number of one-teacher schools in the country, with 9 across the county. Galway has 7, while more than half of all one-teacher schools are in Connaught and Donegal, further demonstrating the Government’s lack of commitment to the West and North West”.