15 small schools facing amalgamation

By Leonie McKiernan

By Leonie McKiernan

By Leonie McKiernan

AT least 15 Co Leitrim schools are facing possible amalgamation as a result of the cost-cutting measures being considered by the new Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn.

Although the Department of Education has said there are “no plans to undertake an immediate large-scale programme of small school closures at this time”, it acknowledged that the exception to this is small schools where numbers were considered unsustainable under current limits.

The fact that the Department of Education and Skills is currently conducting a value for money review of all schools in the country with an enrolment of less than 50 pupils, has also added to concerns that schools will be targeted for amalgamation.

The review directly impacts 36% of schools in Co Leitrim. Most worrying is the fact that nine of our national schools have less than 30 pupils and four of these have enrolments of less than 20, leaving them very vulnerable to cuts.

Cllr Martin Kenny, who has two small schools in his locality, said that he was in full support of any community that wanted to keep their school.

“Schools are a integral part of the local community and of rural life,” he told the Leitrim Observer. “The Government should be doing more to ensure that more parents are able to send their children to their local school instead of cutting bus services and investment in rural areas and ultimately impacting the number of families that a school can attract.

“We have to look at the unique situation in small rural areas. This one size fits all concept which states that all pupils have to attend a bigger school in an urban area just does not fit here in Co Leitrim where we live in small dispersed rural areas.

“Rural schools have a social benefit that just can be accounted in monetary terms and we will fight to ensure that our schools remain in our communities,” he vowed.

To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.