Written answers

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Departmental Data

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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100. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria currently governing the retention of teachers at primary level; the number of schools which closed in each of the years 2017 to 2020 and to date in 2021 as a result of the loss of a teacher in tabular form; the corresponding counties in which such closures took place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57846/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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Teacher allocations to all schools are approved annually by my Department in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment on the previous 30 September, and are available on the Department website.

There have been a number of positive measures implemented to support small schools including an improvement of one point in the appointment threshold and a reduction in the number of students required to retain a teacher which was introduced for September 2021 in primary schools. The current staffing arrangements at primary operates on the basis of 1 teacher for every 25 pupils which has resulted in the lowest pupil teacher ratio ever at primary school

Budget 2022 further improved the staffing schedule by one point which will bring the staffing schedule to a new historical low of 1 teacher for every 24 pupils in September 2022.

This builds on measures in previous budgets which has seen improvements in the overall allocation of teaching posts and specific targeted measures for small and isolated schools as well as primary schools on our islands.

The decision making authority for a school closure belongs to the Patron of the school. Any proposal to close a school must involve consultation with all of the relevant stakeholders, parents, teachers, students and local communities and follow decisions taken at local level.

Of the 18 mainstream schools which closed from 2017 to date, 3 schools had a teaching post suppressed, due to falling enrolments, in the year of closure - one school in Co. Donegal in 2018 and two schools in Co. Mayo in 2019. The decision to close a school by a Patron can be varied depending on local conditions. The Department is not aware of a decision to close a school based on the loss of a teaching post.

In August I launched the Small Schools Clusters Action Research Project which is an innovative research project which aims to encourage small schools in a number of clusters to collaborate together and identify common challenges and trial innovative solutions. I hope the learning from this project will help inform the policy approach to supporting small schools.


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