I am holding a symposium tomorrow to engage with people and organisations who work in and with small schools. I am interested to listen to the views of the experts, but more importantly to engage with ideas and proposals on how to support and sustain small schools as a key component of the primary education system.
Budget 2012 increased the appointment and retention ratios for small schools, i.e. schools with four classroom teachers or fewer.
Since 2015, measures have been introduced to improve the staffing of these schools which has seen improvements in the appointment and retention thresholds for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th classroom teacher and more favourable enrolment thresholds for one teacher schools situated 8km or more from the nearest school of the same type of patronage and/or language of instruction.
Budget 2017 announced two adjustments in relation to one teacher schools. Additional supports were introduced for primary schools on the islands. In relation to single teacher schools generally with an enrolment of 15 or more pupils the school can apply to the staffing appeal board for a second post where the single teacher has children across 6 or more class groups.
Small schools have also benefitted from the 1 point improvement to the primary staffing schedule for all schools implemented in 2016 and again in 2018. For the current school year, the staffing schedule at Primary level operates on a general average of 26 pupils to every 1 teacher (26:1) which is historically the lowest ever allocation ratio at primary level.
In addition, the staffing process includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit a staffing appeal under certain criteria, including a specific appeal measure for small schools, to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board.
Any additional improvement in the pupil teacher ratio would have to be considered as part of the next annual budgetary process, alongside the many other demands from the education sector.