Sinn Fe?in spokesperson on Rural Affairs and the Irish Language, Senator Trevor O? Clochartaigh has called on the Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to review guidelines being imposed by the Department of Education on the Education and Training Boards in relation to appointments to the boards of management of schools in their catchment area.
Senator O? Clochartaigh believes the Government’s insistence that ETB members can only be appointed to the boards of management of schools within a 20km radius of their homes is totally unworkable in rural areas. “In areas like Connemara
where I come from most ETB schools are well over 20km apart and this would exclude members being on most school boards in their ETB areas. This issue becomes more complicated for Gaeltacht and Irish medium schools. Many ETBs have issues over the number of Irish speakers they have as board members, who can then be appointed to the board of management of Irish medium and Gaeltacht schools in their areas. Therefore, they are finding it impossible to ensure that there is ETB representation on these boards that can fulfil their duties through the medium of Irish and this is totally unacceptable.’’
The Senator says the guidelines are not about expenses so he finds it harder to understand. “Colleagues of mine who are members of ETBs have indicated that they are willing to represent the organisation outside the allowable area at no extra cost to the ETB, if they have a particular skills set which would be of use to other schools and where the Irish language is essential, but they are precluded from doing so by impractical departmental regulations. The Minister needs to realise that the one size fits all approach is failing rural areas yet again and she needs to revise the Department’s stance on these issues.
The Connemara man also says gender quotas are posing a problem regarding ETBs. He says he supports the principle of gender quotas to increase female representation at all levels of State activity, but he understands that gender quota on some education and training boards is causing a difficulty.”It is resulting in female local authority
representatives being pressurised to go on to boards against their wishes, to cover the gender quota necessity. All these issues make it clear to me that the Minister needs to intervene immediately to find solutions that are practical to ensure that rural and Irish medium schools are properly serviced by their boards of management and that gender quotas are fulfilled in a practical and workable manner."