Fine Gael Kildare South TD, Martin Heydon, has this week welcomed the introduction of two new policies which will support the sustainability of small schools. This will come as very welcome news to many small schools throughout County Kildare and will help to support smaller schools in future years as they aim to retain teachers.

“The new policies confirmed this week will see reductions in the staffing levels required for some small schools to retain teachers and a voluntary protocol for future sustainability for one teacher schools with reducing enrolments. Having dealt with the teachers and parents of many small local schools in the past few years as they dealt with staffing levels and sustainability I know how difficult an area it can be for both teachers, parents and local communities.

“In real terms these changes will mean that from the 2015/16 school year 19, rather than 20 pupils will be needed to retain a second teacher, 53 rather than 56 will be needed to keep three teachers and for four teacher schools 83 rather than 86 pupils must be enrolled.

“The new voluntary protocol for one teacher schools located within 8km of another similar school will mean that the patrons will be invited to reflect on their future sustainability and to engage on the supports available if they decide to amalgamate. No small school will close under this amalgamation policy unless the patron and community choose to do so.

“The Government has also agreed to the publication of the Value for Money and policy review of small schools, which was commissioned by the previous Fianna Fáil-led Government but never published. It’s recommendations have not been accepted by Government as they would have threatened the future of small schools.

“With the economy recovering, now is the time to give back to those who have sacrificed most and who have brought this country through the worst recession in our State’s history. Tax cuts and changes to USC announced in the budget were step one of this process and now changes like those announced today will have a huge impact on the daily lives of thousands of rural people.

“Small schools play an essential role in rural life and I welcome the package of measures announced this week as they provide security and protection for our small schools.”