Saturday 21 September 2019

Just one pupil left in school after parents pull children out

Keem Bay, Achill Island. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Keem Bay, Achill Island. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Only one pupil turned up in a primary school this week after parents withdrew their children for unspecified reasons.

There have been contacts for some time between the Department of Education, the school authorities and the patron, the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, about issues at Bullsmouth National School, Achill Island, Co Mayo.

Pupil numbers had declined to 16 in recent years, and, in recent weeks, there was a gradual withdrawal of pupils to other island schools.

Crucially, with 15 pupils, the school was entitled to two teachers.

If there is no prospect of pupils returning to, or enrolling in, the school, its future comes into question.

The department said it did not comment on individual cases.

Any discussions on its future would involve the patron and the school community, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government not to close any small school without the consent of parents in order to protect the sustainability and viability of rural communities.

The school was the subject of a critical Department of Education Whole School Evaluation (WSE) inspection report last year.

Among the findings of the inspectors was that, although it is a Gaeltacht school, pupils were speaking English in the classrooms and the playground.

All the pupils spoke English as their first language and the inspectors acknowledged that this created a challenge for teachers.

The WSE described both the quality of management by the board of management and the quality of in-school management and leadership for learning as weak.

But inspectors reported the quality of support for pupils was good and while the learning and achievement in Irish was poor, achievement in English and maths was good.

In response, the board of management committed to implementing its recommendations.

Irish Independent

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