Fianna Fáil will tonight move a Dáil motion exposing and objecting to the sweeping cuts and threatened amalgamations that will result in many communities losing their local school.
Senator Ó Domhnaill said: “Minister Quinn’s attack on small schools is entirely in keeping with the Government’s agenda of targeting the most vulnerable communities for the bulk of cutbacks in Budget 2012. Despite claims to the contrary, the Minister has chosen to single out disadvantaged schools, smaller schools, minority faith schools, gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools for the most severe cuts this year.
“This is deeply unfair and will have profound social and economic consequences for smaller communities and gaeltacht communities in particular.
“The Minister is targeting schools with less than 5 teachers, which comprises 47% of the 3,200 primary schools in the State.
“However you look at it, it means that the children in almost half of our primary schools are facing a significant increase in class sizes from next year. It is a blunt instrument that forces cuts based on numbers alone, without any consideration of a school’s ethos, the geography of an area or the impact on the community of removing such a key amenity.”
And the Senator claimed: “There is no doubt that Ruairí Quinn’s plan will result in the decimation of gaelscoileanna, Church of Ireland schools and minority faith schools. Co Donegal will be particularly badly hit, with a higher proportion of schools facing severe cuts. Gaeltacht schools are facing the most severe cuts, as 70% of them currently have 4 teachers or less. In order to qualify for 4 teachers under the present system, Gaeltacht schools are required to have 76 pupils to qualify for 4 teachers. This will now be increased by Ruairí Quinn to 83 pupils.
“Instead of taking the time to consult with communities, parents and teachers, Minister Quinn is threatening sweeping cuts with no consideration to particular cases. The threat of amalgamations has caused so much fear that we now risk a situation where parents will, in good faith, choose not to send their children to a smaller school for fear it will soon be closed.
“The local school is at the very heart of smaller communities around the country. The Fianna Fáil motion tonight will call on the Government to recognise this, and to protect existing 1, 2, 3 and 4 teacher schools in the long-term interests of education in this country. I am appealing to Fine Gael and Labour TDs to think carefully about what is in the best interests of the communities they represent before voting on this motion.”
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