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Connacht Tribune

School cuts prove State’s ‘anti-rural bias’

Dara Bradley

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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.”

Connacht Tribune

Student nurses face all the risk – for no reward

Dara Bradley

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Working on the children’s ward of a busy hospital during a global pandemic is no joke; less funny still when you’re not getting paid for your toil.

All the risk and none of the rewards of qualified staff – that’s the lot of Edel Moore, a student nurse who is currently on placement at University Hospital Galway.

Edel, and hundreds of student nurses like her on placement in UHG and Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, want more than a round of applause and platitudes from Government.

“None of us want a pat on the back for struggling. We’d just like to be recognised,” she said.

“The Government are full-time talking about front-line workers, and they want to give them a ‘clap hands’. Then you see Junior Ministers getting massive raises. For what? What have they done for us, the student nurses, that they’re getting a €16,000 wage increase?

“We’ve put ourselves through a four year degree but all I’m worth is a clap? Thanks! It’s ridiculous. They say that front-line workers deserve all the help they can get but it just seems that the ones who are able to give us the help we need are not going to give us the help that we deserve.”

Edel Moore is a mature student originally from Westmeath but living in Leitir Mealláin in Connemara with her husband and three children.

A third year student nurse of NUIG, she is currently on placement at the paediatric ward at UHG.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Island museum gets the green light

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the proposed Inishbofin museum.

Work is expected to begin shortly on the construction of a museum on Inishbofin after planners gave the green light to the project.

The museum at Middlequarter is being developed by local historian and photographer Marie Coyne – and when completed, it will be home to items of historical significance from both Inishbofin and Inishark.

There is an existing museum on the island but it is too small to house the amount of artefacts, photographs and family histories that have been assembled over the years.

The new building will also include a photographic exhibition room, restoration workshop along with a gift shop and coffee dock. It is proposed that the new 3,400 square feet museum will be built on a site at the rear of Ms Coyne’s home.

Eamon Gavin of Eamon Gavin Architects based in Cornamona told the Connacht Tribune that this was an important project for the island and it was a welcome decision.

And he said that the green light would kickstart the process of conserving the vast and unique artefacts and archives built up over the years.

“As a practice, we have a long history of dealing with planning consultancy on unique rural sites in Connemara and the islands, therefore we fully understood how sensitive the proposed location of the project would be – the site is located in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and National Heritage Area,” he said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Tuam woman a picture of health a year after Covid crisis

Declan Tierney

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Tuam's Kitty Farrell with her dog Lulu a year after her Covid diagnosis.

Last year was a Mother’s Day like no other for Kitty Farrell who spent it in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital with Covid – but the 80 year old Tuam woman can look forward to a more sedate celebration this time out….thankfully restored back to full health.

Kitty, from Ballygaddy Road, had developed a debilitating cough the previous week – and when she was admitted to UHG on Mother’s Day, she tested positive for the coronavirus despite a lack of symptoms.

The retired businesswoman spent the next nine days seriously ill in isolation – and all alone as her four children could not visit her.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to come through it but I was so sick that at times, it didn’t really matter. But the thought of passing away in isolation made a bad situation even worse,” Kitty said at the time.

A year on, she is back to full health, and while she restricts her movements, Kitty told The Connacht Tribune that she is just happy to be alive and she spends her days ‘pottering about’ and looking forward to the arrival of family members.

“Even though I don’t particularly agree with the current lockdown because everyone should be responsible for their own behaviour, I am living a life of relative isolation at the moment,” she said.

Read Kitty’s full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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