For immediate release, 15 February 2010
Educate Together is questioning the decision by the Minister to open three new VEC pilot primary schools in the Department’s Primary Provision plan for 2010. Seven new schools have been announced, two Educate Together and two Catholic in addition to the VECs.
Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together stated ‘Educate Together has serious concerns about the 2010 Primary Provision plan communicated to us today. It has been issued without consultation, contra to Section 10 of the Education Act, and without any rationale for how the decisions were made. Last year the Minister removed the facility for new schools to be independently established and has now announced new schools that do not match local need. We cannot understand the thinking behind the stated plan and we call on the Minister to explain it’.
The abundance of Catholic primary schools in the country has been well documented, with the church recently acknowledging an inherent oversupply. Yet new Catholic schools have been announced for Drogheda and Galway. The suggested Galway school in Doughiska is notable as a 2009 NUI study commissioned by Galway’s planning and area development committee recommended any new school should cater for the intercultural needs of the area that has 33 different nationalities.
The issue of parental choice does not seem to be a factor in the Department’s plans. The Educate Together schools in Kildare are massively oversubscribed and there is significant support for the Educate Together model in the area. But rather than address this issue the Department is opening a VEC school in Naas.
The expansion of the VEC Pilot Primary School programme is also a matter for serious concern. No data on the success of the current two VEC primary schools is yet available. The Minister stated in an address at the Governance Challenges for Future Primary School Needs conference in 2008 that ‘â¦community acceptance, and most fundamentally the experience of parents and their children will all be essential measures of the success of this initiative’. The VEC evaluation committee only met for the first time in November 09 and will not have the critical ethical and faith development information on these schools until 2011 at the earliest.
The ongoing cost of the VEC model has also yet to be fully understood. It is estimated that a VEC school is on average 16% more expensive than its Educate Together managed equivalent, excluding capital costs. This equates to an additional €500,000 per school opened. The full cost to the state could well be higher as the Department has been unable to provide accurate figures for the pilot programme.
Educate Together is calling for the immediate publication of the Departments decision criteria behind the 2010 Primary Provision plan.
For further information or to arrange an interview with Paul Rowe contact
John Holohan Communications Manager, Educate Together
Mob: 087 2035750