Leitrim teachers and parents will join a national campaign to shout “stop” to the threat of school closures and the further decimation of local communities and rural Ireland at Dail Eireann this evening, Wednesday, February 1.
Eight schools in the county face losing a teacher based on 2010 enrolment figures while seven more schools could be downgraded if their pupil numbers fall by over five in the next two years.
Over 300 concerned parents and teachers attended a meeting organised by the Ballinamore Breifne INTO Branch in The Commercial Hotel, Ballinamore on Monday night, January 30.
The local branch covers 12 schools in the region, five of which may lose a teacher if recent budget cuts are allowed to proceed. The meeting was attended by a large crowd of parents and teachers inside and outside the region, who wanted to get local information and voice their opinion.
Teacher Clare McLoughlin outlined the number of cuts and hits small schools have had to deal with on top of the new change in the teacher pupil ratio.
By 2013 rural schools will need 20 pupils to retain two teachers, 56 pupils to retain three teachers and 86 pupils to retain four teachers. The fact is that this will leave a number of small rural schools struggling to survive.
Many schools could be forced into one teacher schools and this could lead to closure and amalgamation.
There are three Church of Ireland schools in Leitrim and these are also very much under threat. Clare asked “Why should our children be the victims?”
Noreen Flynn President of INTO said “Tearing the heart out of the Irish countryside will not put this country back on it’s feet.”
Helen O’Gorman, Small Schools Rep said there is a possibility many schools will be downgraded to one teacher and she believes these are “not safe.” At least four Leitrim schools may be one teacher schools by 2014. She said in a one teacher school there are health & safety issues, as well as child protection concerns. She said the value for money review on small schools has not yet been published and this decision has been made without it.
She requested to “hear the Celtic Tiger roar, Rural Ireland is alive and well, we need to tell the Minister to leave our schools alone.” She asked parents to “jam” local politicians clinics, write letters and get a motion from the council.
Jim Connolly of Rural Resettlement Ireland noted that our way of life is “unique to Europe” and we are being crushed “by our own.”
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.