A total of eight schools throughout County Leitrim are set to lose a teacher within the next two school years if the 2010/11 enrolment figures are replicated in the current school year, local TD Denis Naughten has claimed.
In addition, a further seven schools will also lose a teacher if their overall pupil numbers drop by five pupils between September 2011 and September 2013.
“A drop in numbers enrolled of five pupils could easily occur due to the changes to school transport rules to be introduced next September or even due to emigration,” stated Denis Naughten. “While a number of these schools are designated as disadvantaged by the Department of Education they will still face the loss of a teacher even though the Minister for Education backed down on cuts to disadvantaged schools in urban areas.
“By 2013 rural schools will need 20 pupils to retain two teachers, 56 pupils to retain three teachers and 86 pupils to retain four teachers. The fact is that this will leave a number of small rural schools struggling to survive.
“Rural schools are a vital element in rural life, being the heart of the local community. They not only educate the local children but the schools also contribute to social and cultural life and act as a force to retain and attract families into an area. These schools are crucial to the fabric of many rural communities.
“Rather than trying to close rural schools by the back door, any policy changes relating to small schools must be considered not just in view of the cost of maintaining small schools but also in terms of the impact of school closures on dispersed rural communities, parental choice, the availability of diversity of school provision and the additional school transport costs,” concluded Denis Naughten.