Rural schools need to be protected as they are vital in the retention of rural populations as well as giving rural areas a sense of community. There is no point in trying to stop the haemorrhage of migration from rural areas unless we are proactive in making sure that services are available in rural areas. Rural schools have done their communities proud over the past century. Cutbacks over the past few years impact unfairly on rural families and on rural schools who are already suffering the effects of rural depopulation and reduction in services. Schools right across the western counties will be affected as the years go by as the changes bite deeper into the fabric of rural communities.
The alarm bells started ringing with a “Value For Money” review. Families living in rural areas are fully aware that Expert Reviews and so-called experts have rocked this country to its knees. Reviews and Reports over the past number of years have brought all of us to the precipice. It’s time to listen to the real people. We all want Value for money – but we also want value for our children, we want value for our rural families and value for our communities who choose to live in the countryside. It is high time that we realised that there are some things which we cannot put a value on in terms of Euros and cents. Our schools and other services are at the heart of rural life. Our local schools have given us tremendous value over the generations.
Recent census figures show that the countryside now has more people living alone than at any time since the foundation of the state. Cut-backs in schools are a real attack on the fabric of rural communities and are strategies aimed directly at weakening the local community and all of this part of the whole trend towards urbanisation. One doesn’t have to be an expert to realise that it is important for our country and for society in general that there is a demographic balance which allows rural areas to develop in tandem with urban areas. It is not fair or just that urban areas benefit while rural areas are allowed to decay.
At County Council level, it is important that councillors have a clear understanding of the necessity to act proactively in defence of rural areas which, in turn, will help our rural towns and villages. The reality is that our small towns, all of which are under severe pressure, need the rural hinterland around them if they are to flourish. If elected, I look forward to working with my colleagues to support our rural areas and rural towns in every way I can. Every service within our communities is important and our rural schools are crucial.