Controversial plans to reduce the number of school bus services to Bishop Galvin Central School in Newcestown, Co Cork, from September is expected to have a significant impact on both pupil and staff numbers at the school.
“These changes would impact on about 40% of our current intake — basically about 40% of our students would lose their transport to the school and would have to move to another school,” said school principal Donie Keane, who explained many of the school’s 216 pupils came from up to 10km away.
“We have students from Templemartin, Mount Pleasant and Mawbeg,” he said, noting the immediate knock-on effect of the reduction of services would mean that many pupils would be left without transport to school.
The resultant falling pupil numbers would bring a loss of teachers and empty classrooms, he said.
“The worst-case scenario is that we would go down to a four-teacher school with just over half of our current student population — we currently have eight class teachers.”
In all, about 250 people including Cork North West and Cork South West TDs attended the meeting. The bus service, according to Mr Keane, has served the school since 1971 following the closure of four ‘old’ schools, Gurranes, Mount Pleasant, Mawbeg, and Newcestown.
“From the outset it was clear a large Central School such as ours, covering a vast rural area could not exist without school transport.
“Unfortunately, the Department of Education has begun to implement changes in the school bus service to national schools.
“One aspect of this change is to only provide bus transport to a pupil’s nearest school,” said Mr Keane. He said, for many pupils, Newcestown was not in fact their closest school so they had lost their previously guaranteed entitlement to bus transport.
The impact of these changes could result in an exclusion of up to 40% of the school’s current intake, a reduction of up to 50% in staff, a proportional and significant loss in Special Education Support, at least two empty classrooms, and a “proportional loss of school funding as this is paid per pupil”, he said.
It would create difficulties in maintaining the school facilities and providing educational resources, the principal said.
Mr Keane said he believed all of the factors would result in a significant deterioration in the standard of children’s education.
Fine Gael Deputy Micheal Creed said following consultation with Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, a meeting had been arranged between officials from the school transport section and representatives of Newcestown Central School. A further meeting takes place in Newcestown on February 12 for a progress report.