New policies for small schools will have a positive impact on rural communities in Westmeath – McFadden

Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that two new policies to support the sustainability of small schools announced by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, will have a positive impact on rural communities right across Westmeath.

“The two new policies introduced will mean beneficial changes to the staffing schedule for some small schools and a voluntary protocol for future sustainability for one teacher schools with reducing enrolments.

“In real terms, these changes will mean that from the 2015/16 school year, 19 rather than 20 pupils will be needed to retain a second teacher; 53 rather than 56 will be needed to keep three teachers and for four teacher schools, 83 rather than 86 pupils must be enrolled.

“For one teacher schools located more than 8 kilometres from the nearest schools of the same patronage and language, the number of pupils necessary will be reduced from 20 to 15. This is a significant step forward in supporting the sustainability of most rural schools.

“The new voluntary protocol for one teacher schools located within 8 kilometres of another similar school will mean that the patrons will be invited to reflect on their future sustainability and to engage on the supports available if they decide to amalgamate. No small school will close under this amalgamation policy unless the patron and community choose to do so.

“These improved retention thresholds for small schools will undoubtedly mean good news for many rural schools right across the constituency. As we all know, small schools play an essential role in rural life and I welcome these package of measures as the first step towards providing security and protecting our small schools.”