Now local schools join the list of services shutting their doors
PRIMARY schools in 19 communities have been closed and 42 amalgamated due to a lack of demand.
But the Department of Education has insisted the changes only came about following agreement with parents and the boards of management concerned.
Primary schools have closed in 13 counties since 2008, many of which have predominantly rural populations, new figures show.
They include Mayo which has lost two in Ballyhaunis (2011) and Crossmolina (2013); Galway saw two schools closed in Ballinasloe in 2011 and 2013, while schools in Carrigallen and Carrick-on-Shannon in Leitrim were shut in 2012.
Other closures were in Kerry (Killarney in 2011 and Listowel in 2012), Castlerea in Roscommon in 2012; Bruff in Limerick and Carrickboy in Longford also in 2012.
Schools have also shut in Kildare (Creag Aran near Naas in 2012), Wexford (Enniscorthy in 2012), Clare (Kilrush in 2013), two in Cork (Bishopstown and Bantry, both in 2013) and Rath na nOg high support unit in Monaghan, also in 2013. In addition, the St Francis Clinic Special School in Dublin's Temple Street Hospital closed in 2011.
The Department of Education said the decision to close or re-organise schools through amalgamation belonged with the school patron, subject to consultation with parents and the approval of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
"The initiative for any amalgamation or re-organisation may come from a variety of sources," a spokeswoman said.
"Any such proposal to amalgamate schools must involve consultation with all of the relevant stakeholders and follow decisions taken at local level. Any proposed changes must be well planned and managed in a manner that accommodates the interests of parents, teachers and local communities and contributes to an inclusive education system."
In addition, 21 schools have been created by merging 42 smaller schools – these have occurred in Sligo, Cork, Offaly, Kerry, Dublin, Drogheda, Clare, Limerick, Donegal, Leitrim, Kildare, Limerick, Wicklow, Mayo and Westmeath.
However, smaller schools with less than eight pupils also face being closed unless numbers rise. The Department of Education said that financial aid was not continued to a school at which the average daily enrolment fell below eight for two consecutive school years.
"The Education Act provides for a period of three months during which the minister will consider any representations made by a school board of management, patron, teachers or school community to a proposed closure", a spokeswoman added.