"....And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot
Where many a time he triumphed is forgot...."
The truth seems to be sinking in of the impact of the Government's anti-rural (and anti-Gaeltacht if not anti-Irish) policies. The implications of our last piece on the eminent closure of an historic Gaeltacht school in Donegal is beginning to be reflected in the English speaking press at last.
Yesterday's Connaught Tribune paper highlights the impact in an article which points out that half the county's schools are earmarked for closure.
In an article in yesterday's Irish Times, Seán Cottrel tries to understand the policy of the Department of Education in this regard, "It is regrettable that the Department of Education and Skills considers our network of rural schools superfluous and financially unviable." It goes on to say that "recent research by Jim Spinks, research fellow at Melbourne University on behalf of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network, shows that schools with four teachers or fewer are as financially viable as medium-sized schools with between eight and 15 teachers."
More frighteningly the author states "More importantly, there is no educational argument to back up the Government’s case to close small schools."
The argument continues along the lines that we have read in the Irish Language media about Gaeltacht Schools. "This goes to the heart of our identity as a nation and a community and to the high standards we have set ourselves as educators and parents."
Even from an economic viewpoint it does not appear to make much sense as the expansion of the larger schools will require larger facilities while the often excellent facilities in the small local schools financed in many cases by the community albeit supported by state funding.
He concludes the argument more clearly and more sharply than perhaps I have seen in the Irish media. "The blunt instrument of pupil numbers as the sole measure for determining the continued existence of a school is clearly limited. In my view, good policy and savings are more likely to emerge from the evidence provided by good practice than a knee-jerk reaction to the clamour for austerity measures."
Perhaps we need another Goldsmith to visit and chronicle many new Auburns! Or will we despite the hostility of the powers that be "Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall?"
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