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School could lose teacher ‘if one family emigrates’

Principal says teacher appeal process a ‘sham’

Anton McNulty

THE principal of a Mayo school which won its appeal to retain its current teaching level has described the appeal process as a ‘sham’ and does not know for certain if the school will retain its teacher in September.
Last week, it was announced that two Mayo primary schools - Mayo Abbey NS and Partry NS - which were due to lose a teacher under the changes in the teacher/pupil ratio are to retain their present teacher allocation.
The decision was based on the projection by both schools that the actual enrolments will meet the required level next September. The decision was welcomed by Mayo Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony who said that the news will come as ‘a great relief to everyone concerned, particularly the pupils, the staff and the families of the children attending the school’.
However, Tom Byrne, the Principal of Partry NS said that any suggestion that the Minister for Education was giving rural schools some ‘leeway’ was ‘utter and total rubbish’. He said that under the appeal process they had to project that there would be 54 pupils enrolled in September to retain their three teacher status, and he had no idea how the circumstances will change between now and then.
“We won the appeal because of the number of people born in the parish and the projected pupils but that can change in the blink of an eye. We need to have 54 pupils enrolled in September to retain our teacher but it only takes one family to emigrate for us to lose our teacher. We cannot say for absolute certain that we are safe but we will continue to fight.
“If any politician suggests that the Minister is somehow doing us a service or giving us leeway by offering this process of appeal he or she is talking utter and total rubbish. It is a complete sop and a distraction from what it is about and that is the closure of rural schools,” he told The Mayo News.
Mr Byrne has been to the forefront of the opposition to the changes in the pupil/teacher ratio which he believes are introduced not because of budgetary constraints but to close small rural schools and move services from rural areas to towns and cities.
“There is not a single educational argument to justify these changes [to the teacher/pupil ratio],” he said. “ In years to come when we look at the reasons for the demise of rural communities, one factor responsible will be the pupil/teacher ratio change introduced by this Minister who is a strong advocate for the removal of services from country areas to towns and cities.”
The other schools in Mayo who are destined to lose a teacher are Keenagh National School in Ballina, Scoil Naomh An Chorrain in Achill, Scoil Naomh Eachleime and Scoil Naomh Ros Dumhnach both in Erris.
Mr Byrne said the campaign against the closure of rural schools was now a national movement and that communities where small rural schools are being affected by pupil/teacher ratio were prepared to ‘battle’ to retain ‘essential services’ for their children’s future.

HAVE YOUR SAY email antonmcnulty@mayonews.ie with your comments