Father Tom Deenihan, the General Secretary of the Catholic Primary School Management Association, has welcomed the announcement today by Minister for Education & Skills, Ms Jan O’Sullivan, concerning sustainable school communities.
Father Deenihan said that CPSMA, with their colleagues in the INTO, have been engaging with the Minister’s officials for some time in relation to this initiative. The issue of small schools is a critical one for local communities, teachers and management, impinging, as it does, on both the areas of pedagogy as well as health and safety. It is also true that the number of small schools has increased greatly in recent times. Most of these schools are in rural areas. Today’s announcement, which should be welcomed by all, will alleviate, in some way, concerns that are held in these communities.
The reduction in the retention figures for the second, third and fourth teachers is a positive step and will make a real difference to many schools. Of greater importance is the further reduction for rural schools that are located more than eight kilometres from another school of the same patronage in respect of the second teacher. The concern about the increase of one teacher schools is shared by the INTO and CPSMA. The reduction of the retention figure to 15 pupils will reduce the number of one teacher schools in Ireland. That must be welcomed. It also represents a protection for the ethos and patronage of these small, isolated schools that serve their communities.
For some time now, CPSMA with the INTO, the Church of Ireland Board of Education, and the Department, have been discussing a voluntary protocol in relation to schools that wish to amalgamate or close. The nomination of a single contact person within the Department is enormously helpful. The pro-active approach of the Department to write to school patrons when enrolment decreases to 25 pupils should allow for a structured discussion locally on the viability of the school or the desire to amalgamate with another such school.
CPSMA welcomes the initiatives announced today and thanks the Minister and her officials for their engagement with them and our educational partners in relation to this matter.
Notes to Editors
- The CPSMA is a recognised school management association and represents all the boards of management of the over 2,900 Catholic primary schools in the Republic of Ireland.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444