Group: Primary schools face threat of ‘drip, drip’ closure despite U-turn

Government policy means Ireland’s small primary schools still face a “drip, drip” closure over the coming years despite a major U-turn on planned staff cutbacks, a leading protest group has warned.

The Save Our Small Schools West Cork campaign made the claim last night after Education Minister Ruairi Quinn confirmed that over 200 of the planned 367 teacher job cuts for the new school year have been overturned on appeal.

SOSS chairwoman Clara McGowan, who is principal at the 12-pupil St James’s National School in Durrus, said while the successful appeals should be welcomed, it still meant almost half of Ireland’s 367 two, three, and four-teacher schools would be “decimated” by cuts in September.

She said new teacher-pupil ratios coming into effect over the next three years mean that while a two-teacher school needed 14 pupils to stay open last year, this will change to 17 in Sept 2012 and 20 in Sept 2013. As a result, she said there is a growing fear that even facilities that have won their appeals against the latest staff cuts remain at risk of a “drip, drip” closure.

“We would not see this as a victory, we would see this as a stalling tactic,” said Ms McGowan.

“The small primary schools that won their appeals won them conditionally, meaning they might be safe this year but next year could be a different story.

“They may not seem like big increases but they are big for a small school. It is death by 1,000 cuts.”

The SOSS is holding a national protest in Dublin City on May 26, further details of which are available from SOSSWestCork@gmail.com.

* For the full list of schools which successfully appealed, download the spreadsheet at http://exa.mn/schools

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