The axe hangs over one-teacher schools in Galway, as the Minister for Education continues to sit on a value for money report into small schools.
The report, believed to be political dynamite, has been sitting on the desk of the Education Minister, Jan O’Sullivan, and her predecessor, Ruairi Quinn, for almost two years now.
In 2010, when the report was ordered, Galway had 72 small schools, which was the highest in the country.
The Department of Education report into the future of small schools was furnished to the then Minister Quinn in April, 2013.
Despite having major implications for scores of schools, and hundreds of pupils, the report has yet to be published.
Responding to queries from the Connacht Tribune, the Department’s press office said: “The report of the value for money review of small primary schools is not published yet. It is still under consideration by Government and it won’t be published until that consideration is finalised. The Department is not in a position to give a precise publication date at this time.”
Galway West TD, Éamon Ó Cuív, says failure to publish the report has created further uncertainty among small schools in the west. Deputy Ó Cuív says he and Fianna Fáil have been ‘stonewalled’ by the Minister at every turn as they seek the publication of the report.
Figures obtained by Deputy Ó Cuív show that there are 44 one-teachers schools in Ireland and seven of them are in Galway – one teacher schools are thought to be most at risk from the review.
He has demanded an explanation as to why the review hasn’t been published.
“I cannot understand why Minister O’Sullivan is refusing to publish this important report, and clarify the Governments position on small schools. The Government seem to be putting off this issue on the basis that they have not got the guts to make their own decision on this issue having considered the report,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
He added: “Galway and Mayo have a disproportionately high number of small schools, and the uncertainty surrounding the future of these schools is proving highly damaging.
“This Government has set about targeting small rural schools, by repeatedly cutting resources and increasing class sizes. This has forced the closure of some of these schools.
“Galway and Mayo have been particularly susceptible to these cuts, and now have the highest number of one-teacher schools in the country.
“Many of these schools are fearful that they too may be eradicated under this administration. Minister O’Sullivan needs to publish this value for money report and end this uncertainty.
“Parents and students have a right to know whether there is a future for their school and it is unfair for the Minister to continue to draw out this process.”
Radio series a first for new An Spidéal production company
A host of Ireland’s finest musicians gathered in Galway’s new intimate arts space – and recorded ten weeks of special programmes that will go out on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta every Thursday, starting tonight.
Cuan an Cheoil is the first radio series produced by Stiúideo Cuan, the new arts venue and production company in the heart of An Spidéal.
The new ten-part series, kicking off tonight at 7pm, will feature ten of the country’s best-known musicians, who will join Hot House Flower Liam Ó Maonlaí each week to play and to chat with him about various aspects of music and life.
Liam describes the programmes as ‘a musical conversation’ between himself and his guests.
They were recorded in Stiúideo Cuan in An Spidéal in a relaxed and open atmosphere, an attempt to recreate the informality of a group of musicians playing together at home, as opposed to a concert setting. The idea is to allow the musicians the space to be creative, to improvise and to compose on the spot, and the musicians who took part in the series got great satisfaction and enjoyment out of the process.
Síle Denvir and Barry Kerr will join Liam for the first programme of the series on January 20. Síle, from Conamara, is a member of the group Líadan, and has also performed with the Chieftains. Barry Kerr, musician, composer and painter, is originally from Armagh but now living in Conamara.
Other musicians taking part in the series include Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh & Nia Byrne, Peadar Ó Riada & Mick O’Brien, Mary Bergin & Conor Connolly, Johnny Óg Connolly & Liam O’Connor, Róisín Chambers & Maitiú Ó Casaide, Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich & Niamh Varian-Barry, Rónán Ó Snodaigh & Myles O’Reilly, and Caoimhe & Séamus Ó Flatharta.
A visual stream for this programme will also be available online every week.
Stiúideo Cuan is a new creative arts and music centre based beside Ceardlann an Spidéil craft village in An Spidéal.
Founded by composer, fiddle-player and pianist Charlie Lennon and his daughter, fiddle-player Éilís Lennon, the studio has recently been redeveloped to enhance the facilities there which now include a performance venue, with rehearsal and production space, as well as recording and audio-visual post-production facilities.
Cuan an Cheoil will be broadcast on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta every Thursday from 7pm to 8.30pm, starting tonight. See www.rte.ie/rnag for further information or to listen back.
Athenry student makes wheelchair waves to create unique artwork
A young Athenry student has been making waves after his artistic endeavours endeared him to the nation.
Joshua Whelan, a First Year pupil at Clarin College in Athenry, has cerebral palsy – and a passion for art, which was revealed when he joined Serena Joyce’s art class a few months ago.
And he has now produced his first large artwork – an abstract interpretation of the Athenry town map, which he produced by using the wheels of his wheelchair to apply the paint.
It was testimony to Serena’s determination to find a way for him to make his mark – and she found inspiration from other wheelchair artists, like American artist Tom Hollenstein.
Serena enlisted the help of Martin O’Connell, Joshua’s special needs assistant, to produce the painting which now hangs proudly in Clarin College for all to see.
Martin steers the chair, but at Joshua’s direction as he tells Martin how he wants the wheelchair to move across the canvas.
When the painted was posted on social media, it drew a huge reaction and led to Joshua featuring on RTÉ News last week.
And Joshua’s mother Ingrid was understandably proud of her son.
“He’s amazing. It’s a credit to the school and Serena and Martin, and the support he’s had to help realise his skills and abilities,” she said.
NUIG distributing Covid test kits to students
Tens of thousands of antigen test kits are being provided to NUIG students alongside Project UniCoV as part of public health efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.
From Monday 17 January, students will be able to collect packs at four locations across campus.
Professor Breda Smyth, Chief Investigator of Project UniCoV and HSE West Director of Public Health, urged students to avail of the kits as well as additional testing, by signing up to take part in Project UniCoV.
“Everyone attending campus needs to adhere to the basic public health measures in the first instance – including not coming to campus if you have symptoms and are supposed to be self-isolating or restricting movements.
“Being able to offer free antigen test kits on campus at NUI Galway and giving students the opportunity to take part in Project UniCov demonstrates how we can take a layered approach to public safety and the welfare of students and staff.”
Students can collect five tests at a time. They are being advised to test twice a week, three days apart. They are also being advised to self-isolate if they test positive or develop symptoms and to follow public health advice.
Students are also being encouraged to avail of the option for further free antigen and/or salvia PCR testing for twelve weeks in semester two. A special QR code is being made available to students to support the research.
NUI Galway students are also encouraged to get the vaccine booster, to continue to wear face coverings and sanitise hands. The University saw high levels of compliance from students with public health guidelines during the academic year and we thank them for that.
The distribution of free antigen test kits is funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.