County's rural schools face possible cuts

SOME of the Co Leitrim's smallest rural schools could face financial cuts as part of a drive to save millions of euro in the education budget the Leitrim Observer has learned.

SOME of the Co Leitrim's smallest rural schools could face financial cuts as part of a drive to save millions of euro in the education budget the Leitrim Observer has learned.

The possible closure of some of the country's 570 two-teacher schools, one in six of the nation's primary schools, will be just one of the options examined in a wide-ranging value-for-money review. Co Leitrim has 16 schools which fall into this category and with many of these smaller schools located near other schools, questions have been raised about possible amalgamation, a move originally mooted in the An Bord Snip Nua report a number of years ago.

Despite a statement released by the Tnaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan on Monday many remain fearful about the future of small rural schools and with one third of Leitrim schools classified as two-teacher schools and at least 30% of these having 15 pupils or less, they would be ripe for consideration if this avenue was pursued.

In the short statement issued by the Tnaiste earlier this week she said that she had voiced her strong opposition to the closure of small schools in September 2009 and her position had not changed. A spokesperson for the Department added that the "review is ongoing and the Tnaiste has no plans to begin a campaign of closing down two-teacher schools in rural Ireland".

The spokesperson noted that the Special Group on Public Services and Expenditure was established to examine current expenditure programmes in each Government Department and to make recommendations to Government for ensuring a return to sustainable public finances. The report outlined that of the 3,200 primary schools in the State, approximately 47% had five teachers or fewer. The report also identified significant cost savings that could be achieved by reducing the overall number of schools through amalgamations and mergers.

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