Donegal teachers will be contributing to an Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) task-force report on the support and protection of small schools.
At this week’s INTO annual national congress, the union overwhelmingly supported a motion to establish a task force to compile the report, and asked the task force to report back to a special congress in June.
Concern for small schools is among several INTO priorities, said Michael Weed, a teacher at Meenagowan National School in Lettermacaward, and a member of the INTO Central Executive Committee for District 3 (Donegal and Leitrim).
“Everybody realises it is a priority,” Mr. Weed said yesterday, speaking from Killarney, where the congress was being held.
Mr. Weed said the motion instructed the task force to seek submissions from all INTO branches and districts. The report will be used in an INTO campaign for the protection of small schools and submitted to the minister.
Craobh na Rossa, Craobh an Earagail and Craobh an Iar-dheiscirt, INTO branches in the Rosses, Gaoth Dobhair and southwest Donegal, have been particularly active in campaigning against new staffing schedules and other cuts they say threaten the future of small schools. The new schedules increase the number of students a school must enrol to retain current levels of staffing. Campaigners have warned that schools with one to four teachers will be particularly hard hit.
Mr. Weed said Craobh na Rossa was one of the worst-affected branches in the district, with 12 of 14 schools estimated to lose staff members over the course of the new schedule.
He said the small-schools motion was supported overwhelmingly when it came up on Tuesday at the congress. A motion adopted by the congress yesterday calls on the CEC to campaign for the reversal of cuts to DEIS rural schools, where programmes are designed to address educational disadvantage. Mr. Weed said there are DEIS schools in Donegal that could lose staff in September, if the cuts are not reversed.
Schools at risk of losing teacher may appeal those decisions. Appeals are expected to be decided by the end of the month.
Ruairí Quinn, TD, minister for education and skills, addressed the congress on Tuesday morning. Mr. Weed said the minister asked teachers to support the European fiscal treaty, and seemed to link the treaty to education funding.
But Mr. Weed said the INTO remain hopeful that their task-force report will have an impact.
“We wouldn’t have passed the motion otherwise,” he said. “We are hoping to put information, and ideas, and possibilities in front of him.”