This idea is probably going to be the one where I’m hung out to dry! Yes, it looks like I’m advocating for amalgamating small schools. However, read on, before you accuse me of killing rural Ireland!
Rather than killing rural communities, my proposal is to build them. Having 3 schools with less than 30 pupils in each within 10 minutes of each other has a number of disadvantages over a school with, let’s say, 90 pupils.
Teaching multi-classes is difficult enough for one. Lack of support for schools in the form of secretaries and caretakers is another. Lack of resources. The difficulty of getting a Board of Management. The workload of a principal. And so on.
Wouldn’t it be better to build a central community hub within 15-20 minutes drive from any area? This hub would contain a sizeable school. However, it would also have to include a proper sports hall. Not only that, I would argue it would also host a community centre with a possible library, café or restaurant, and other community services, (e.g. post office, garda station, etc.) There could even be pitches built for sports. These “hubs” could be developed over time into bustling villages.
Buses would service the region and bring whole villages to school every day. The buses would be free and the would also serve the community, not just school kids.
This easily could work in almost all but the most rural of areas such as islands.
In this way, schools could truly be the centres of their communities.
Now – go ahead and tear me to shreds!