A Case Study Of How An Irish Island School Contributes To Community Sustainability, Viability And Vitality

Peter Edward Gill


Island studies have rarely focused on the role of small schools on offshore islands. Island schools are often impacted by the decisions of national, regional and local educational authorities, particularly in today’s world where diseconomic and disbenefit arguments highlight the non-viability of small schools. Such schools are seen as unable to provide an adequate curriculum, socially disadvantageous and generally inefficient. This raises an important question: How does a small island school promote the participation and engagement of families and the community? This paper reports a bounded case to illustrate the characteristics intrinsic to a single small rural school as a communal hub on one of Ireland’s Atlantic islands. A narrative about the school in past and present times, along with vulnerability mapping, is used to explore the social dynamics of the island school within its community. The findings show how the modern diaspora is different from that of earlier generations. The case also illustrates the differences in vulnerabilities between a perceived attractive environment, supported by a viable school potentially driving in-migration, and communities where the absence of a primary school or the risk of its closure would diminish the attractiveness of an island as a place for young families.


small rural schools, communal viability, case study, social vulnerability

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