Scores of small schools across larges swathes of County Galway have fallen victim to the Government’s an anti-rural bias, according to Fianna Fáil.
Galway West TD, Éamon Ó Cuív, the party’s rural spokesperson, was scathing of the Fine Gael minority Coalition’s pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) record, which has contributed to a reduction in teacher numbers in small schools.
The lot of schools in cities and towns has improved, he said, but the ruling administration was showing “a clear bias against rural Ireland” by implementing “mean” cutbacks to small primary schools. Counties Galway, Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon are disproportionately affected, he said.
And Deputy Ó Cuív listed a whole pile of small schools in Connemara that are impacted including Ros a Mhíl, Béal a’ Daingin, Tír an Fhia, An Trá Bhán, Camus, Kilkieran, Carna, Rosmuc, Corr na Mona and so on.
Deputy Ó Cuív, a former Gaeltacht Minister, said the Government’s decision not to row-back on the cuts has made life more difficult for teachers in small schools.
The impact of the PTR means that two-teacher schools have been reduced to one; three teacher schools are down to two; and four teacher schools have just three.
“So, for example in a two-teacher school, each teacher will take four classes and one of them will also be a teaching principal. It’s incredibly difficult, depending on the pupil teacher ratio,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.
He said small primary schools “are at the heart of most rural communities”, and make a “huge contribution to their local area and are the gateway to the future for all of the children who pass through their doors.”
Teacher numbers at two, three and four teacher schools have reduced significantly under Fine Gael, he said, a claim that has been borne out by statistics released to him by Education Minister Richard Bruton.
Deputy Ó Cuív said: “When Fianna Fáil left office in 2011, all schools with more than twelve pupils had two classroom teachers. This situation has changed and now schools have to have 18 pupils in order to retain a second teacher. This puts a lot of pressure on teachers in small schools, especially in one and two teacher schools, where they are expected to teach across a range of classes. In many cases, this is simply not sustainable.
“Since 2012 the number of pupils required for the appointment of a third teacher in a school, has gone from 49 to 54 and the retention number has gone from 49 to 51. The requirement for a fourth teacher has also risen in that time – from 81 to 84.
“These changes have had a huge impact on rural schools, the majority of which cannot meet the revised numbers to secure additional teachers. I am urging the Minister for Education to explore the option of reversing these mean changes, which have had a detrimental impact on rural schools, and to ensure that the pupil-teacher ratios in these schools are returned to 2011 levels.”
Minister Bruton said: “Any additional improvement in the pupil teacher ratio would have to be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process, alongside the many other demands from the education sector.”
Boil water notice issued for Barna area
A boil water notice has been issued for the Barna area for health protection purposes
The areas affected are Barna Village, Truskey West and Truskey East, Barr Aille, Fermoyle, Ballard and along the Connemara Coast Road as far as Furbo, and on the Barna/Galway Road as far as Silverstrand.
The notice has been put in place due to issues with disinfection of the water at Tonabruckey Reservoir.
The notice affects approximately 2,300 people supplied by the Barna section of the Galway City West Public Water Supply area.
Customers in the area served by Tonabrucky Reservoir will notice increased levels of chlorine in their water supply in the coming days as we work to resolve the issue.
Vulnerable customers who have registered with Irish Water will receive direct communication on this Boil Water Notice.
Irish water, the City Council and the HSE will monitor the supply and will lift the notice when it is safe to do so.
In line with HSE Covid-19 advice and the requirement for frequent hand washing, Irish Water advises that the water remains suitable for this purpose and boiling the water is not required.
Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised
Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.
A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.
Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.
Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.
Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.
He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .
Anger over ANC ‘snip’
ANGRY farmers hit out during last week’s Galway IFA at the Dept. of Agriculture over what they described as their ‘heavy handed tactics’ in docking BEAM penalties from ANC payments made last week.
Although Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has apologised for the actions taken by his Department officials, delegates who attended last Thursday’s night county IFA meeting in the Claregalway Hotel, hit out at what happened.
In some cases, according to Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, farmers who had already paid back the BEAM penalty also had the money deducted from their ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments made last week.
Many farmers received ‘a shock in the post’ when their ANC payments were hit with the deductions of penalties from the BEAM scheme – earlier they had been warned of interest penalties if any balances weren’t repaid within 30 days.
At the core of the problem was the inclusion of a 5% stock numbers reduction in the BEAM scheme (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) aimed at helping to compensate farmers for a drop-off in beef prices between September, 2018 and May, 2019.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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