Small schools across the country 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. Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Brendan Smith said the Minister is trying to give the impression that he has rowed back on cuts small schools when he has not.
Deputy Smith raised a special Dáil debate on the matter this afternoon and questioned the Minister of State Ciarán Cannon about how the appeals process will work.
Speaking afterwards Deputy Smith said, “Minister Cannon could provide no solace or no clarity to small schools that are still facing significant cuts as a result of this Governments budgetary decisions.
“Essentially, the Government has 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 nothing more than an attempt to take the heat out of the anger about this unpopular budget measure. In reality, it will make very little difference to small schools that are set to lose their teachers.
“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 small schools to prove they will have significant increases in pupil numbers over the next number of years. Without this proof, at best they will loss staff and class sizes will increase, while at worst they face forced amalgamation and closure.”
“Nearly half of all primary schools in this country are still facing cuts to teacher numbers under Ruairí Quinn’s plan. Regardless of his attempts to give the impression of softening the blow of cuts to small schools, 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.
“There is no doubt that this will still lead to forced amalgamations and some communities losing their local school. Gaelscoileanna and minority faith schools will still be disproportionately hit by these cuts,” said Deputy Smith.