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'Small schools are a vital part of rural life, but at a time of great strain on finances...'

A NEW Department of Education report has found no significant difference between bigger and smaller schools in terms of quality of education.

The report will form part of a 'value-for-money' review of small schools being conducted by the department.

Primary teachers' leader Noreen Flynn called on the value-for-money review to be made public as soon as possible.

Ms Flynn, president of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), said Budget cuts are causing "fear and anxiety" in small communities which have already lost their garda stations, post offices and health services.


The move to increase class sizes in small schools is seen as a further attack on rural communities, as well as Gaeltacht and island schools. The new report assessing the network of small schools has raised concerns about the future of several hundred small schools.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn (pictured right) denied the report was an attack on small schools. The report would be a valuable tool in the debate on such schools, he said.

School inspections and surveys of parents and pupils found the quality of English lessons was slightly better in bigger schools but, overall, there was very little difference in the quality of education based on school size.

Mr Quinn said: "I recognise that small schools are an important part of the social fabric of rural communities and they will continue to be a major feature of our education landscape. However, at a time of great strain in our public finances we have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources are used in the best possible way."

Teachers have expressed fears about the possible targeting of hundreds of small schools.