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Over 5,000 Galway primary pupils in classes of 30 of more

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Date Published: {J}

By Denise McNamara

There are over 5,000 primary school children being taught in classes of 30 or more in Galway, with a shocking 321 in the county having to endure class sizes of up to 39.

The latest figures released by the Department of Education show that 5,103 primary school children in Galway are being taught in classes of 30 pupils – 3,471 of them outside the city.

In addition, 391 are in classes between 35 and 39 children, of which 321 are in the country.

That figure is down on last year when 385 pupils were in such large classes.

The figures show eight county schools have the unenviable distinction of having these massive classes. Scoil Naisiunta an Bhan Mhoir or Bawnmore school in Claregalway is in the worst situation, with 71 children in classes with up to 39.

Scoil Naisiunta Bhride in Turloughmore has 38 children in this same category. National schools in Clarinbridge and Moylough have 36 pupils in this bracket, while Athenry, Rosscahill, Clifden and Claren, outside Tuam, all have 35.

School principal of Lough Cutra national school in Gort, Joe Killeen – the district representative for the INTO (Irish National Teachers’ Organisation) – said the department’s guidelines for getting approval for more teachers appointed were too inflexible and needed to be changed to ensure children were in manageable classes.

“If you have 38 children in a particular class you may not qualify for an extra teacher because the department divides out the number of pupils in the school by the number of teachers and don’t look at the size of individual classes,” explained Mr Killeen.

“They also take the numbers from the year before so you have to go through the whole school year with increased numbers before you might qualify for an extra teacher. What the department has is one size fits all, which doesn’t work for individual schools.”

In his own school last year, they had two classes with 29 students. That has been reduced this year to 18 after they qualified for more teachers.

“That number is ideal because all the teachers get a chance to give each pupil a fair crack of the whip. The whole curriculum is child-centred so in order to progress with that there has to be an opportunity to hear from every child. That can only happen when you have manageable numbers,” Mr Killeen stated.

“When numbers are that high, the effectiveness of teaching is severely diminished. The pupil, teacher ratio is just too high.”

Fine Gael Seanad spokesperson on education, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, said these latest figures show the devastating impact the Budget cuts are having on our children.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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