Savings from small school closures questioned

IRISH Rural Link (IRL) has questioned the McCarthy report’s recommendations which threaten small rural schools.

IRISH Rural Link (IRL) has questioned the McCarthy report’s recommendations which threaten small rural schools.

The debate about rural school closures across the country are at a crucial stage as the Department of Education and Skills has begun a value for money review of primary schools with less than 50 pupils. The review affects approximately 659 schools around the Country.

IRL is arguing that any savings made through school closures will quickly be eclipsed by massive costs when it comes to accommodating pupils elsewhere.

According to Seamus Boland, CEO of Irish Rural Link, the review will have to consider the fact that the figures do not add up. “Existing teachers will have to be accommodated in other schools if existing ones are shut down, meaning that there will be no saving of salaries. There is also the question of how pupils will be accommodated in schools which are already close to capacity. If small schools are closed, then buildings could lie empty while pupils are transported elsewhere (at a cost), and accommodated in expensive rented portacabins.”

Helen Dunne, Policy and Communications Officer with Irish Rural Link stated that the value for money review seems to operate on the premise that there may be some short term savings to be made, but the logic of closing any schools in the midst of a baby boom, with 74,000 births per annum has to be questioned. It was pointed out that any of these issues are in addition to the social costs, the disruption to children, families and indeed communities in areas where small schools are a central part of daily life.

IRL has urged the Department’s review group to view small schools as a valuable resource both in financial terms and socially, and to consider also the performance of such schools which tends to be very high.