Gaeltacht and Church of Ireland schools across Galway and the west face closure if the Government’s plans for sweeping cuts and amalgamations come into force.
This is the view of Fianna Fáil Galway East TD Michael Kitt who accused the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn of leading an “attack on small and minority schools”.
“Minister Quinn has chosen to single out disadvantaged schools, smaller schools, minority faith schools, gaelscoileanna and Gaeltacht schools for the most severe cuts this year,” said Dep Kitt. “This is deeply unfair and will certainly result in the closure of several small schools in County Galway.”
According to Dep Kitt, the minister is targeting schools with fewer than five teachers. Such schools comprise 47 per cent of the 3,200 primary schools in the State.
“Children in almost half of our primary schools are facing a significant increase in class sizes from next year,” he said. “The retrospective nature of these cuts means schools will be judged on last September’s pupil numbers and so could still lose a teacher this September even if their pupil numbers go up.”
As an example, Dep Kitt cited St Gabriel’s national school in Kilconnell which has two children more than it had last September. In Castlehacket pupil numbers will increase from 49 last year to 51 in September.
Dep Kitt fears that the cuts will result in the closure of small schools in County Galway, which he says, has a higher number of schools facing severe cuts.
“Children will have to travel to schools in other areas, at a time when the Government is also making cuts to school transport,” he said. “They have doubled the school transport charges from €50 to €100 and the primary family payment doubled to €220. The extra costs associated with sending children to school have suddenly become a lot higher.”
Dep Kitt said the threat of amalgamations “has caused so much fear” and risks leading to 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”.