Outrage as school faces losing third teacher over ratio change
OISIN Foley's parents faced a serious dilemma in September -- their son was only going to be four in October but their local school needed him to enrol, for the numbers.
The Foleys decided to send Oisin to Fybough National School near Castlemaine in Co Kerry, a three-teacher school that needed every child it could get to make sure it had 49 children enrolled to qualify for its third teacher.
Now, because of changes to the pupil/teacher ratio announced in the Budget, the Foleys' gesture may have been in vain.
The Government has retrospectively raised the number of pupils needed to qualify for three teachers from 49 to 51 and now Fybough National School and an estimated 100 other rural schools face the prospect of losing a teacher.
John Brosnan, who teaches first and second class at the school, was the "last man in" at Fybough and his job -- saved by the Foleys' decision to send their child to school early -- is now on the line.
"Because of the new focus on literacy and numeracy, we have to spend three hours and 45 minutes on the core subjects and they're upping this.
"I just don't see how it's going to be possible for a teacher to teach four different classes and the children will suffer at the end of the day," Mr Brosnan told the Irish Independent.
Oisin's mother Nikki feels cheated by the decision.
"We deliberated for ages on sending Oisin so early but in the end we put him in to save the school. How can they now do this and get away with it?" she asked.
Yesterday, parents, teachers, local representatives and members of the board of management came out in force to protest over the measure.
Principal of Fybough, Angela Prendergast, said even more schools would be affected next year.
"We got a devolved grant of €410,000 to build two new classrooms and instead we built three and a resource room. Now that's value for money," she said.
"This decision is an attack on rural Ireland. It's a blunt instrument without thought or consideration affecting hundreds of schools."
The last time there were such crowds at Fybough National School was in May 2009 when the then Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister and past pupil Pat Carey formally opened the new extension.
In September 2012, just three years later, those same classrooms will now lie idle unless the decision is reversed.