Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has said he is even more concerned about the future of small rural schools following correspondence with the Minster for Education Ruairi Quinn.
Deputy Cowen wrote to the Minister amid growing unease about the government’s attitude towards small schools and concern in communities about whether they will be forced to close or merge with other schools.
Deputy Cowen said: “I raised this issue directly with Minister Quinn because I have had a number of parents and teachers raise concerns with me in recent weeks and months about the future of small schools. The Minister has informed me that a Value for Money review he will bring to Cabinet shortly includes a recommendation that “an over-arching policy that recommends a four teacher school as the optimum size is established. This would ensure that every teacher has responsibility for two classes. The VFM will set out organisational and cost arguments for the adoption of this policy.”
“While the Minister has said the department will not be forcibly closing down one, two and three teacher schools this does cast doubt on the viability into the future. We cannot have a situation where the government moves to close schools down but equally the government cannot back school managers into a corner and leave them in a situation where they’re forced to close or merge with another school.
“Fianna Fáil has been concerned for some time that Minister Ruairi Quinn has an agenda when it comes to amalgamating small rural schools. There are fears that more than 1,000 schools across the country with under 80 pupils or three teachers may face closure. I am concerned about the future of small schools in Offaly and I know there are communities that are worried they face losing a school that has been pivotal and at the centre of the community for many years.
“Minister Quinn must ensure that schools are protected and any attempt to dismantle the network of small schools across the country will be strongly opposed.”