School set to close despite changes

Cortober National School is set to close in June.
A partial government U-turn on teaching post numbers at rural schools across Ireland has come too late for one such facility along the Cavan-Longford border.

A partial government U-turn on teaching post numbers at rural schools across Ireland has come too late for one such facility along the Cavan-Longford border.

Cortober National School, which lies between Arva and the lakeside village of Loch Gowna, will close its doors for the last time in June.

It’s believed the changes announced last week, however, would have had little impact on whether the school remained open or not.

Just four pupils are presently enrolled at the school ahead of its closure in June, despite a €300,000 refurbishment having been carried out on the school in 2009.

No one from the school was willing to comment publicly this week after new rules surrounding pupil numbers were announced by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan last week.

The Labour minister reduced the threshold levels that determine the number of teachers allocated to each school in a move designed to prevent a number of closures in September.

The new guidelines cover one, two, three, and four-teacher schools, the majority of which are located in predominantly rural areas.

A two-teacher school will now be able to retain its current compliment of staff after the 20 pupil threshold was reduced to 19.

For three-teacher schools, 53 pupils will be required, down from its previous figure of 56.

And for four-teacher schools, pupil numbers are being trimmed from 86 to 83.

Local Fine Gael TD James Bannon believes the proposed changes announced by the Labour minister are a step in the right direction.

“With the economy recovering, now is the time to give back to those who have lost most and who have brought this country through the worst recession in our State’s history,” he said.

“Small schools play an essential role in rural life, especially in more isolated communities, and I welcome the package of measures announced as the first step towards providing security and protecting our small schools.”

Prinicipal of St Columba’s National School in Mullinalaghta, Frances McDonnell, said the new rules would have little affect on its present two-teacher status.

“It’s not impacted us negatively or positively,” she said.

“We are in between numbers. The biggest issue is with getting a third teacher. We would need 56 children to get a third teacher.” as we have 43 at the minute.”