A RECENT report that one in three rural schools have too few pupils to be sustainable has been rubbished by a former primary school principal.
The report by the Department of Education outlined that the pace of closures and mergers needed to be accelerated.
However, Teresa Kane, former principal of Maralough Primary School, near Trillick, which was forced to close its doors in June, retorted saying, that the Department was ‘closing rural schools by default’.
“They are basically putting a rumour out into a community that a school is going to close and once rumour goes out parents, and rightly so leave the school,” she contended.
Since the government accepted in 2007, the recommendations of the Bain Report which suggested minimum enrolment numbers, more than 150 schools have been approved for closure or amalgamation.
In this new report the department said the existing network ‘is not sustainable’. This year the Education Authority warned dozens of schools they would be considered for closure or amalgamation due to sustainability issues.
However, Mrs Kane explained that there were enough children in an around the area of Maralough to fill the school.
“In 10 years time the education board and system will say they have made a massive mistake here. We are by right a rural society and what they are doing is urbanising these schools,” she stressed.
She referred to the long term sustainability for the north adding that people would not stay if their roots were not in that area.
“Young people will uproot and leave because there is no sense of a small rural identity. If you look at southern Ireland and schools in Scotland and Wales being supported . They pool their resources but in the North they are daily just throwing away something that has taken hundreds of years to build up,” said the former principal.
“Rural schools are really and truly part of the community. Instead of taking children out of the community they should be looking to see what they can put back to support these communities. I cannot think of any statistics that show that bigger is better, other than they make a decision entirely on money.
“Many children in small schools are over-achieving. They are being so well catered for and so well looked after. It is an extension of the home where the home works very closely with the school,” she maintained.
“It is a holistic education that the children need and they get that in a rural school environment. They don’t get that in bigger schools.”
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