There was great jubilation in Castlebar today as Mayo’s newest equality-based school Castlebar ETNS opened. It has been a long and rocky road towards the opening of the school and the day has finally arrived when it opened its doors to 12 Junior Infants.
The new school was honoured to receive a letter of support from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD this morning, which School Principal Sarah Calvey read out to the assembled children and their families. In it, An Taoiseach wrote:
“Today is a historic day, the opening of a new type of school in Castlebar, that will take its place with all the other schools in the town, offering greater parental choice in their children's education. I would like to acknowledge the work of all the parents who have supported the opening of this school, who enrolled their children to start school today, or will do in the coming years. Go raibh maith agaibh, agus go n'eirigh an t-adh libh.”
Castlebar ETNS has been the subject of much controversy since 2015 when its opening was postponed. As a divestment area, Educate Together was promised a building in which to open a school. However, the accommodation offered was unsuitable and rejected by parents and Educate Together. Further controversy erupted this year when objections were made to the school moving to a more suitable location in Marsh House in the town centre. The resulting national media attention garnered fresh enrolments and support for the school. Happily, due to co-operation and collaboration between Educate Together and the Department of Education a satisfactory arrangement has been reached that places the school in a central and easily-accessible location off Cavendish Lane. Cavendish Lane will serve as a temporary home for the school whilst planning issues on the Marsh House site are resolved.
Said Jarlath Munnelly, Regional Development Officer for Educate Together:
“As a native of Mayo I am delighted that Castlebar families now have access to a school that I’m sure will be become a beacon in Ireland’s education system. This school in hard-won but I have every confidence that it is worth the wait.”
Said Principal Sarah Calvey:
“Castlebar Town is a growing and changing, diverse society and the opening of Castlebar ETNS will provide choice to parents. In Educate Together schools, diversity is welcomed and celebrated. This progressive model of education is inclusive, child-centred and parents are valued partners in their children’s learning.
We are delighted to be opening in the heart of Castlebar. We thank the Department for listening to parents and for working with our council to provide a centrally located building. It’s important that the school opened in the town – this is what parents were led to believe when they participated in the 2012 patronage survey.”
Said Yvonne Coyne, parent:
“This is a new chapter for this town and its residents. I know the Educate Together School is going to be a great addition not just to the students of this school but of all the schools in Castlebar and the community at large.”
Castlebar ETNS joins three other national schools that will open this week: Riverview ETNS, Broombridge ETNS and Gracepark ETNS in Dublin. Educate Together also also opened five second-level schools in Cork, Wicklow and Dublin on Monday.
Castlebar ETNS has opened as part of the divestment process. This process of reconfiguration was recommended in 2012/2013 by the Government-appointed Forum for Patronage and Pluralism to progress the transfer of patronage of a small number of Catholic schools to another patron, such as Educate Together, where there is parental demand to do so.