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This paper provides an overview of practices in small rural elementary schools in Ireland and recent trends related to school size. There are 3,200 "ordinary" elementary schools in the Republic of Ireland serving children aged 4-12 in eight levels: two preschool levels and grades 1-6. System-wide policies with implications for small schools include staffing policies that can result in 57 students in a one-teacher school, the denominational nature of the system and the hegemony of school management by the Catholic church, high teacher-pupil ratios, and the absence of administrative principals in schools with fewer than eight teachers (about 77 percent of all elementary schools). Over half of all Irish elementary schools have fewer than five teachers, but there is no weighted funding to compensate for small size. As the school population has declined since the 1960s, policymakers have actively promoted the closing of small schools. A 1991 international evaluation recognized the benefits of small schools but nevertheless encouraged consolidations aimed at four-teacher schools, a recommendation that would result in the closure of 1,357 schools. Subsequent debate highlighted the general lack of policy in relation to small schools and the ways in which current policies disadvantage small schools further and damage their viability. Research and policy needs of small rural schools are discussed. (Contains 20 references.) (SV)

Descriptors: Educational Needs, Educational Policy, Educational Practices, Educational Trends, Elementary Education, Elementary Schools, Foreign Countries, Preschool Education, Rural Education, Rural Schools, School Closing, School Size, Small Schools, Teacher Student Ratio

Autor: Sugrue, Ciaran


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