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Principal resigns in protest at school cuts

A PRINCIPAL who spent years looking for extra resources for her dilapidated school resigned yesterday, saying she can no longer fight a system that won't listen.

Liz Mulry (44) has accused Education Minister Ruairi Quinn of failing to care about the plight of small rural schools.

She has been principal of Eglish National School in Ahascragh, Co Galway, for five years.

But she confirmed yesterday she will step down from the post in August and take up the position of resource teacher within the three-teacher school.

It is likely she will then lose her job when the teaching staff numbers are cut next June.

"I'm tired of fighting. It's a constant battle and I just can't do it any more. The minister does not listen," Ms Mulry said yesterday.

The new pupil-teacher ratios being introduced mean Eglish NS is set to lose a teacher next June.

"When I resign as principal I am effectively the newest member of staff. It will be a case of last in first out," Ms Mulry explained.

During her five years in charge, Ms Mulry fought for funding for a new school building, as the previous accommodation was rat-infested and considered a fire trap.

The mother-of-five has succeeded in implementing a range of innovative measures, including an anti-obesity drive and literacy and modern languages programmes. But Eglish NS will not escape the cuts.

"First we had to fight for the building, then for special needs assistants and resources," Ms Mulry said.

"Then our Travellers' resource teacher was cut and we had to fight for it back. We're fighting constantly," she said.

Now, Ms Mulry's biggest concern is the new pupil-teacher ratios, which she believes will strangle small rural schools.

A three-teacher school must currently have 51 pupils enrolled to retain its current staffing levels, but this figure will increase to 56 by 2013.

"We have 52 this September but we will never reach 56. We haven't had those numbers since the 1980s," she added.

After the Budget, Ms Mulry wrote to Mr Quinn about his plans to cut teacher numbers.

"I told him if he was going to go through with it I was not going to stay on and help him implement it," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it would not comment on individual cases but insisted the minister was committed to small rural schools.

"However, this does not mean that small schools can stand still or never have their staffing levels changed to something that is more affordable and sustainable for these very difficult and challenging times," the spokeswoman added.

Irish Independent