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Minister outlines new policy to support small schools

Posted by SchoolDays Newshound, on 17/02/2015. Minister outlines new policy to support small schoolsTags: Education And Politics Teachers

Press Release
The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O'Sullivan TD, has today announced that Government has agreed the implementation of two new policies to better support the sustainability of small schools, and particularly those in isolated areas.
This policy approach involves two key elements:

- Improved changes to the staffing schedule for some small schools and
- A voluntary protocol for future sustainability for 1 teacher schools with reducing enrolments
The full details of these elements are outlined here.

The Government has also agreed the publication of the Value for Money and policy review of small schools, which was commissioned by former Tánaiste and Minister Mary Coughlan in 2010. That report will be published later this week, after it has been laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. Minister O’Sullivan has confirmed that the recommendations of that report have not been accepted.

Commenting on this new policy approach, Minister O'Sullivan said: "In many parts of our country, small schools play a central part of local communities. As someone who attended a small school myself, I am particularly conscious of the importance of this social infrastructure to rural communities, and particularly the most isolated communities".
The Minister is also committed to preserving parental choice and recognises the need to sustain local communities, particularly dispersed and remote communities, who have close affinity to, and identity with, their local schools. 

"The two new policies being proposed today will provide some improvement to the staffing levels of some of our smallest schools. These improvements particularly recognise the challenges faced by very small schools that are more than 8km from the next nearest school of the same type of patronage and language of instruction"

"We are developing a voluntary amalgamation protocol for the very smallest schools with reducing enrolments with representatives of teachers and school managers. If any school which is within 8km of the next nearest school of the same type of patronage and language of instruction sees their pupil enrolment drop below 25, there will now be a series of voluntary local conversations about whether amalgamation of local schools would create more sustainable school communities into the future. I will provide capital funding to support such amalgamations from within the overall education budget, if extensions or other work to schools are required. No small school will close under this amalgamation policy unless the patron and community choose so."

"This package of measures will provide rural communities with security about the future of their small schools, recognising the essential social function which small schools can play, especially in isolated communities."

Minister O’Sullivan also confirmed that the Value for Money and policy review of small schools will be published later this week: “This report provides a solid research basis for future discussions regarding small schools. However, the Government will not be proceeding with the recommendations of that report. The policy changes I have announced today will be the only significant changes to small schools which will be considered by this Government”. 

For details of the changed staffing schedule and the Voluntary Protocol for one teacher schools, click here


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