Small schools across the country under threat of teacher cuts have geared up their protest campaign this week as leading educationalists say children’s futures are being sacrificed for the austerity budget.
Staffing requirements, based on enrolment figures in primary schools introduced in the last budget, will lead to increased class sizes, loss of teachers from next September and could force amalgamations or even the closures of small schools.
Eileen Flynn, general secretary of the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) said the level of upset across the country is understandable. ”It has caused a level of anxiety for people in smaller schools who see themselves as a mainstay of rural Ireland.
”One thing that cannot happen children in disadvantaged areas or on the margins or even the mainstream, is that they are sacrificed because of mistakes made by others.
”If they are to be the leaders of the future, they deserve the best start now.
”A blanket pupil teacher ratio policy that removes context or circumstance does not make sense, and we may be regret it down the line.”
Fr Michael Drumm, executive chairperson of Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP), said the Government should be considering a strategic plan that would include the school community.
”Nothing is more important than schools. Pupil teacher ratio is choking small schools slowly and surely.”
”It is naturally causing antagonism on the ground and I’m not convinced the savings will be significant enough to cause the difficulties they are raising in communities.”
Clara McGowan, campaign chairperson of Save Our Small Schools (SOSS) said her phone has been ‘hopping’ with concerned callers from across the country.
”Small schools are the heartbeat of community, and we are facing massive class sizes or being squeezed out,” said Ms McGowan, who is principal of the 12-pupil St James’ Church of Ireland National School in Durrus in Cork. ”The campaign is gaining national momentum and in public meetings all over the country, communities are speaking out on behalf of schools.”
Kevin Giblin, principal of Tibohine National School, one of three Catholic schools in his parish in Roscommon, said that if cuts continue there will be nothing left in rural parishes. ”People are very angry in one sense that it is happening and in another that is was so well hidden. People were not told what was happening – it was underhanded. If cuts continue there won’t be much left in the parish and if we don’t stand up now and fight, there will be no school left for future generations.”