Small schools, gaelscoileanna, DEIS Schools and minority faith schools throughout County Galway are still facing significant cuts to staffing levels and the possibility of closure, despite a PR announcement from the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn this week.
Galway East Fianna Fáil TD Micheál Kitt commented: “The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn himself admitted that he had made a mistake by targeting DEIS schools for severe cuts. He also raised expectations by announcing a review of his original announcement. Yet he has decided to go ahead with 45% of the cuts originally announced.
“Only 235 of the current 428 posts will now be retained. This means that children at disadvantaged schools are still facing larger class sizes and cuts in support from September. While the reduction is welcome, it is offset by the cuts in capitation grants, schools are finding it hard enough to fundraise at the moment without losing this valuable source of income.
“The long-term costs of cutting supports to DEIS schools far outweigh the short-term gain. Having admitted his mistake, the Minister should have done the right thing and reverse it. A long review resulting in a only a partial U-turn is not good enough,” said Deputy Kitt.
He added that the Minister is trying to give the impression that he has rowed back on cuts to small schools when he has not.
“Minister Quinn announced that small schools facing cuts can appeal these cuts if they can prove their pupil number will rise significantly over the coming years. This is just an attempt to take the heat out of people’s anger about these cuts. In reality, it is very vague and will make very little difference to small schools in Galway and across the West that are set to lose their teachers. This is a prime example of giving with one hand and taking with another.
“While it is welcome that staffing levels will be based on pupil numbers as of September 2012 instead of September 2011, it will be extremely difficult for many schools to prove they will have significant increases in pupil numbers over the next number of years. Without this proof, at best they will lose staff and class sizes will increase, while at worst they face forced amalgamation and closure.
“The reality is that any school with less than 5 teachers is still in the firing line. Schools will now need 53 pupils on their roll in September 2012 to retain three teachers – an increase on the current figure of 49.
“This is not over. There is no doubt that this will still lead to forced amalgamations and some communities in Galway losing their local school, and I know that parents and teachers in the county will not take it lying down,” said Deputy Kitt.