A number of families who have children attending rural schools have come in for a nasty shock in recent years when they found they were victims of the termination of the benefits of the “Closed School Rule”. Years ago when many small schools were amalgamated, families were promised that their children who lived in the catchment areas of those small schools would always have transport to the central school.
Some of these families have now found that the rug has been pulle…d from under them as older children continue to be eligible for transport while, in some cases, children starting out are only being offered concessionary tickets to the school of their choice. These families were given guarantees when small schools were being closed down and I believe it is wrong that the Government can now turn its back on those guarantees at the swipe of a pen in their Dublin offices
How can we claim to be cherishing all the children of the nation equally when we cannot even treat children within the same family equally when it comes to the basic right of school transport. The Closed School Rule was there for a very good reason because it meant that small rural communities would be kept intact. Abolishing the rule means that, in many cases, families are being told that they will only be eligible for transport to a school in a neighbouring parish.
Families have a right to live in Rural Ireland and their children have a right to be educated in the bosom of their own communities. Rural Ireland is the heart of Ireland and the rural school is the heartbeat of each of these communities. Abolishing the Closed School Rule can only have a negative effect on rural communities and I know of a school which stands to lose 20% of its catchment area as a direct result of this very short-sighted cost-cutting measure. I am calling on Minister O’Sullivan to address this anomaly immediately in the interests of fairness.