‘Schools should not be closed just to save money’

THE proposed closure of around 1,000 small primary schools should only happen if it can be justified for educational reasons, a parents’ leader has said.

The amalgamation of 659 schools with fewer than 50 pupils with larger ones and the merger of another 850 with 50 to 100 pupils could save around €25 million, according to An Bord Snip Nua.

But National Parents Council chief executive Áine Lynch said any decision should not be based solely on financial considerations.

“If it is decided that small two-teacher schools are not educationally beneficial, it’s one thing. But if they are cut just to save money, it’s another matter,” she said.

“We would also be concerned about bringing in any school charges for primary pupils,” Ms Lynch said.

With An Bord Snip Nua suggesting annual school transport fares of around €500 per child, as well as a proposal to end free school buses for primary children, the closure of smaller rural schools could help significantly towards savings on the €192m school transport budget.

But the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) questioned whether the amalgamation of small schools could save €25m because of the inevitable capital investment for new classrooms in schools taking extra pupils and teachers.

“It is disappointing that the report makes no reference to our model of school clustering as our research shows the best way to improve the economic efficiencies of smaller schools is to develop clusters of schools with shared services,” said IPPN president Larry Fleming.

The proposal to transfer Irish language responsibilities to the Department of Education from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs was rejected yesterday by Conradh na Gaeilge. The organisation said the Department of Education is neither capable nor competent of taking on such a responsibility.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland said the report’s recommendation to cut 2,000 jobs in third-level colleges would sound a death knell for overseas investment by sending out a message that the country does not value education.

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