Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has come under fire due to his latest school policy, which suggests amalgamating primary establishments where class sizes are particularly small.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Primary Principals Network, director Sean Cottrell claimed the initiative threatened the closure of rural schools across the country.
It was suggested the proposed changes would damage communities, as removing teachers and forcing small classes to combine may make schools vulnerable to being shut down.
Speaking in defence of his proposals, Mr Quinn said the measures are necessary in order to meet budget targets, as it is not realistic to pay for multiple teachers to lead lessons with less than 12 pupils.
"The alternative then, is what this government has committed to – achieving the savings in public spending required by reducing the overall number of public servants," he stated, adding: "This means educating our children with fewer teachers."