Sat, Jul
19 New Articles

Lips tight on Achill school controversy


Áine Ryan

A WALL of silence surrounds all the official channels charged with resolving issues around the dramatic removal of pupils by parents from the two-teacher Bullsmouth NS in Achill. The school’s phone rang out yesterday as The Mayo News attempted to confirm if there were any developments after parents removed all 16 pupils from the island school. When the school  opened for the 2018-2019 academic year on Monday last, September 3, just one pupil turned up. No child has turned up since.
The Mayo News understands that staff members are attending the school each day.
The Mayo News also contacted the chairman of the Board of Management, former county councillor Micheál McNamara; the Archdiocese of Tuam, which is the school’s patron; and the Department of Education. None of these responded.
The Mayo News understands that the board of management held a meeting about the debacle on Friday night last. We put the following questions to the Department of Education: “Is the school still open? And, if so, what is the precedent, if there is one, for such a case? For how long will it be left open? Who, ultimately, makes the decision to close it?”
The future of the primary school is now up in the air, since all the pupils have relocated to other schools on Achill. Reports last week stated that parents were ‘dissatisfied’ with the school over ‘a number of issues’, which, however, they declined to outline.

Details of a Whole School Evaluation, published by the Department of Education on its website in December 2017, stated that while ‘the overall quality of school management is fair’ and that the Board of Management was ‘very committed to the school’, the school needed to address a number of matters.
“The principal demonstrates a low level of understanding of the requirements of the role and some of the main functions of the principal are poorly executed. School records are maintained in an unsatisfactory manner and some essential areas of school development have not progressed. The principal should ensure that all essential school records are fully and properly maintained in accordance with the department’s requirement. Steps should be taken to ensure that the principal’s management and leadership roles are fulfilled more effectively, particularly in relationship to leadership of learning.”  
The report also cited the fact that while the quality of pupils’ achievement in English and Mathematics is  ‘good’, ‘the quality of teaching, learning and pupil achievement in Irish is poor’. This was despite the fact that the school is in a Gaeltacht area. The report’s finding also referred to the fact that there was no Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) plan available at the time of the evaluation and that there were deficiencies in ‘the provision of appropriate preparation and planning in one setting’.

Board of Management response
The appended Board of Management response to the evaluation noted the key recommendations of the inspector and welcomed the acknowledgement of ‘the positive aspects of the work of the school’. It stated: “The board is endeavouring to implement the recommendations in the Whole School Evaluation Report in cooperation with the staff to continue with the development of the school.”
The response stated that the Deis plan was under development; that the principal would engage in further professional development courses; that the Board of Management, staff and parents would participate in the Gaeltacht School Recognition Scheme; and that an updated version of the Stay Safe programme was now in use in the school.
Established in 1910, Bullsmouth NS had an enrolment of 49 pupils in 1976, 32 in 2007 and 16 pupils due to start in 2018.