Small primary schools need ‘inducement’ to merge

Cash incentives could mean buildings available to other patrons, says church spokesman


The Catholic Church in Ireland’s spokesman on education has said small primary schools should be given financial incentives to amalgamate.

Fr Michael Drumm, chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership, said some “inducement” needs to be given to schools to participate in amalgamation.

“At the moment, if you amalgamate, two grants that you receive become one over night.

“If we could provide some sort of limited financial inducement to schools to amalgamate - because they will in this case be amalgamating for the purposes of pushing forward a national policy goal that would be greater diversity in the locality - that would be very helpful,” he told RTÉ radio’s This Week programme.

“We need something to push this forward and that could open up the possibility of buildings being made available to other patrons,” he said.

Recommendations rejected

Earlier this year, the Government announced it was rejecting the recommendations of a long-awaited value-for-money report into small schools.

This called for all one- or two-teacher schools located within 2km of a similar school to be closed or amalgamated by the end of the 2014/15 school year, and for others located up to 8km apart to be reorganised through amalgamation or federation.

In rejecting the report last February, the Department of Education lowered the threshold for the appointment of a third teacher from 56 pupils to 53, and a second teacher from 20 to 19 from September 2015.

It also said it would write to patrons of all one-teacher schools located within 8km of another school of similar patronage to “invite them to reflect on their future sustainability” and to offer department supports “if they decide to amalgamate”.

The department said it had not written to any school yet, as it was developing the amalgamation protocol with the education partners.

However, it said it had identified 12 one-teacher schools it planned to write to in the first instance, four of them in Co Mayo, two each in Co Clare, Co Cork and Co Kerry and one each in Co Galway and Co Roscommon.