Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, was accused of spinning budget cuts and taking a “sneaky approach” to reducing teacher numbers in small schools.
Fianna Fáil launched a private members’ bill last night amid concerns that minority faith and smaller schools could be forced to close due to cutbacks.
“You’re dealing with two-teacher, three-teacher and four-teacher schools whose future is significantly endangered as a result of the budgetary decisions,” said Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
“The minister and the Government took a rather sneaky approach to the education in the budget insofar as up-front, they proclaimed there is no increase in pupil-teacher ratio.”
Fianna Fáil say up to 250 schools with less than 86 pupils will lose posts, with gaelscoileanna and minority faith schools hit hardest.
Brendan Smith, education spokesman, said schools in border counties, where there is a higher proportion of minority faiths, would be badly hit and that Mr Quinn was taking a dangerous approach.
“Instead of taking the time to consult with management bodies, community leaders, parents and teachers, he is wielding his axe from the splendid isolation of his ministerial office in Dublin City centre,” Mr Smith said.
“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.”
Mr Quinn and the Government claimed small schools receive more favourable amounts in grants and payments. A school with 12 pupils received the same amount as one with 60 students, it said.
While the threshold for additional teachers in small schools will rise, a small school will still receive a second teacher with 14 pupils, a third teacher with 51 pupils and a fourth teacher with 83 pupils from September.
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