School amalgamations could hurt rural Donegal

Donegal North East Sinn Féin TD, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has urged the government to look at alternatives to amalgamating and closing schools.

Donegal North East Sinn Féin TD, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has urged the government to look at alternatives to amalgamating and closing schools.

He said budget cuts fail to take account of the importance of small schools and their relationship with communities across rural Donegal and Ireland.

“The budget changes to the staffing schedules fail to take into account the importance of small schools and their relationship with communities across rural Donegal and Ireland. In the haste to reduce budgets, the quality of our children’s education is being greatly compromised and the views of teachers and parents have been largely ignored.

“In the mid-1960s, a sustained amalgamation policy was implemented by the then Fianna Fáil government. During a seven year period the number of one and two teacher schools was reduced by approximately 1,100. The decline of many rural communities was blamed on the policy of forced school amalgamations and closures. This government now stands on the brink of replicating this short-sighted policy. Sinn Féin is urging the government to take a more holistic approach to this issue and alternatives to amalgamating and closing schools should be considered. These should include examining ways of repopulating existing schools rather than constantly expanding over-crowed larger schools, where children are often taught in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

“I would appeal to this government to recognise the importance of small schools in and that any viability assessment must have a greater remit than just short-term savings. Financial concerns, taken in isolation, are no justification for closing small schools and the government needs to examine the adverse impact on the child who is forced to travel to a different environment.

“The importance of rural schools in maintaining community cohesion and the role they play in the preservation of local history, culture, and folklore must also be considered. Every euro cut from the Education Budget reduces a child’s prospects, harms their future life chances and jeopardises this country’s chance at recovery,” he said.