Five small rural schools in the Diocese of Ferns, which have a Church of Ireland ethos, are in danger of closing in the next year or two, a North Wexford Councillor has claimed.
Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin made the revelation at the recent Gorey Municipal District meeting during a discussion on Kilnamanagh and concern over its future.
The issue of Kilnamanagh National School was raised by Cllr Mary Farrell who said the school is 'in the process of possibly losing its second teacher.
'It's possible that the school is in danger of closing,' she speculated. 'If that happens, the pupils will be scattered to overcrowded schools. It would be an absolute shame to lose that school.'
The District Chairman, Cllr John Hegarty, proposed they write to the Department of Education expressing their support for the school.
Cllr Ó Súilleabháin said he was involved in the 'Save our Small Schools' campaign, and he was told that five small schools in the Diocese of Ferns are 'under threat' and 'could possibly close in the next year or two.'
Speaking this week, Kilnamanagh NS principal Loraine Rosler confirmed that as things stand, they will lose their second teacher next year.
The school had an enrolment of 18 pupils by the September 30 deadline, but the Department of Education has raised the two-teacher requirement from 17 to 20.
The school will be informed of its teacher allocation in January, and Loraine has written to the Minister for Education, pleading the school's case, and asking for the requirement to be reverted back to 17. Local parents and the INTO are supporting the call. 'We've got an extremely supportive parental group, and they are trying to heighten the profile of the school,' she said. 'We are an all inclusive school, under the Church of Ireland patronage. We have children of other faiths here too.'
'If the number could be held at 17, we could survive and possibly grow,' she said, explaining that numbers vary in schools from year to year. In 2010, Kilnamanagh had 20 pupils; 24 in 2011 and 2012; and 20 in 2013. For the next three years, the enrolment at the moment is 18, but this could grow.
Ms Rosler said that the two-teacher requirement has risen from 12 to 20 in recent years, sometimes jumping by two or three a year. 'That's huge,' she said. 'In other schools, they have gone up by one a year.'
She pointed out that numbers are going up in schools across Wexford, and there seems to be a focus on large schools in urban areas, and bringing pupils from areas in by bus.
'A one-teacher school is not an advisable way to be,' she said. 'Our parents are adamant that they want this school to stay open. They are delighted with the level of education and the positive learning environment. They like the family atmosphere, and because numbers are lower, the children can get more individual attention.'