Minister for Education urged to publish report on future of primary schools

Teachers fear over 1,000 schools with fewer than 80 pupils may be under threat

INTO president Anne Fay at the organisation’s conference in Cork yesterday. Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

INTO president Anne Fay at the organisation’s conference in Cork yesterday. Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 05:00

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn was challenged by Irish National Teachers’ Organisation president Anne Fay to publish a report commissioned on primary schools amid growing fears that more than 1,000 schools with under 80 pupils or three teachers or fewer may face closure.

Ms Fay told the union’s 145th annual congress that Mr Quinn, who addresses delegates today, should move to publish the Value for Money report commissioned 2½ years ago by the Department of Education on the future of primary schools.

Ms Fay, who teaches in a three-teacher school in Fermoy, Co Cork, criticised the leaking of some of the report at the weekend. It was reported on Sunday that the viability of more than 600 small schools would be thrown into doubt by the report.

“We got selective leaks of this report to a Sunday newspaper by the Minister, I presume, which I believe shows a lack of respect for parents, teachers and communities all over Ireland. Over a thousand schools now fear for their very existence,” she said.

Loud applause
Loudly applauded by the 800 delegates in Cork, Ms Fay went on to remind Mr Quinn of the commitment he gave on behalf of the Labour Party when in opposition and just before the 2011 general election to oppose any forced amalgamation of schools.

“The now Minister for Education and Science wrote on February 15th, 2011, just before the general election: ‘The Labour Party has never supported the forcible amalgamation of rural schools’, another debased pre-election promise to add to what is becoming a very long list.”

Ms Fay said teachers still manage to take great pride in their work despite being anxious and worried about the future and cuts in education and, even when greatly overworked, have the interests of their pupils foremost in their mind.

‘Palpable anger’
“But alongside that pride, I have detected a palpable anger – there is anger at the attitudes of some of our employers, commentators and politicians who seem to think, bizarrely and erroneously, that teaching is an easy life,” she said.

“There is anger at changes to terms and conditions that focus on saving money and not on making the education system better, and anger at investment in education becoming another discredited election promise, not a priority to return Ireland to economic growth and social equality.”

Ms Fay opted not to speak on Croke Park II proposals on pay which are currently being voted on by union members.

However, union sources confirmed to The Irish Times that there was a lot of anger voiced at the Croke Park II proposals at a private session.