CORK North West Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan has condemned the Government’s covert attempts to force the closure of small schools in communities across Co Cork and in Church of Ireland schools and Gaeltacht schools in particular. Fianna Fáil will tonight (Tuesday, 31 January) move a Dáil motion exposing and objecting to the sweeping cuts and threatened amalgamations that will result in many communities losing their local school.
Deputy Moynihan said, “Minister Quinn’s attack on small schools is entirely in keeping with the Government’s agenda of targeting the most vulnerable communities for the bulk of cutbacks in Budget 2012. Despite claims to the contrary, the Minister has chosen to single out disadvantaged schools, smaller schools, minority faith schools, gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools for the most severe cuts this year. This is deeply unfair and will have profound social and economic consequences for smaller communities.
“The Minister is targeting schools with less than 5 teachers, which comprises 47 per cent of the 3,200 primary schools in the State. However you look at it, it means that the children in almost half of our primary schools are facing a significant increase in class sizes from next year. It is a blunt instrument that forces cuts based on numbers alone, without any consideration of a school’s ethos, the geography of an area or the impact on the community of removing such a key amenity.
“There is no doubt that Ruairí Quinn’s plan will result in the decimation of Church of Ireland schools and minority faith schools, as well as Gaeltacht schools. West Cork will be particularly badly hit, with a higher proportion of schools facing severe cuts. Any school with under 83 pupils will face cuts to teacher numbers. The fact that the calculations are based on enrolment figures last September means that even if there is an increase in pupil numbers in some schools this September, they will still face cuts.
This is an underhand tactic to force schools to amalgamate. While it may suit some schools of similar ethos in the same area, here in West Cork we have many different types of smaller schools, be they Church of Ireland schools or gaelscoileanna, that are simply not in a position to merge with others.
“Instead of taking the time to consult with communities, parents and teachers, Minister Quinn is threatening sweeping cuts with no consideration to particular cases. The threat of amalgamations has caused so much fear that we now risk a situation where parents will, in good faith, choose not to send their children to a smaller school for fear it will soon be closed.
“The local school is at the very heart of smaller communities around the country. The Fianna Fáil motion tonight will call on the Government to recognise this, and to protect existing 1, 2, 3 and 4 teacher schools in the long-term interests of education in this country. I am appealing to Fine Gael and Labour TDs across Co Cork to think carefully about what is in the best interests of the communities they represent before voting on this motion.”