Over the past seven years, small schools across County Galway, and in rural Ireland generally, have seen their teacher numbers "reduced significantly" under the two Fine Gael led Governments.
This is the view of Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Rural, Regional, Gaeltacht, and Island Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, who says he is "particularly concerned" about the situation in small schools.
He said that since 2011 all schools with more than 12 pupils had two classroom teachers. However this situation has changed, and schools must now have 18 pupils in order to retain a second teacher. Since 2012 the number of pupils required for the appointment of a third teacher in a school, has gone from 49 to 54 and the retention number has gone from 49 to 51. The requirement for a fourth teacher has also risen in that time - from 81 to 84.
“These changes have had a huge impact on rural schools, the majority of which cannot meet the revised numbers to secure additional teachers," said Dep Ó Cuív. "This places a lot of pressure on teachers in small schools, especially in one and two teacher schools, where they are expected to teach across a range of classes. In many cases, this is simply not sustainable."
Dep Ó Cuív said “small primary schools are at the heart of most rural communities" and he has called on the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, to "explore the option" of reversing these "mean changes", which have had a detrimental impact on rural schools".