Educate Together Will Continue Campaign for First Second-level School

The patron body for Ireland’s multidenominational primary schools, Educate Together has expressed deep disappointment at the decision to award patronage of the new Gorey second level school to Wexford VEC. The Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan published her decision late this evening.

Reacting to the Tánaiste’s announcement, Paul Rowe Educate Together CEO said ‘‘We are very concerned at this decision. 20 out of the last 23 post-primary schools that the Department of Education has opened have been VEC schools and the same has now happened in Gorey. This decision will do nothing to offer the parents of children in Gorey an additional choice of school as there are already three VEC community colleges available to them. We feel that is a serious set back for the 957 parents who expressed a preference for an Educate Together school.

It is now unclear how the choice of this substantial number of parents is to be addressed by the Department of Education and Skills. I am seeking an immediate meeting with an Tánaiste to discuss this matter and Educate Together’s concerns over the transparency and independence of the process used for this decision. In particular, Educate Together will be seeking that assurances given by officials that there would be a proper audit of the parental survey will be honored.”

The decision on the patron for Gorey’s new school follows intense campaigns by Educate Together and Wexford VEC. Educate Together has enjoyed growing support from local parents since the establishment of its primary school there in 2005. Parents from this school drove the Educate Together campaign in Gorey and established near universal local political support and an initial registration list of 650 families interested in an Educate Together second-level school. Wexford VEC ran a high volume PR and advertising led campaign in the local media while also distributing thousands of A4 brochures to every school and home in the locality.

Chair of the Gorey Educate Together Second Level Committee Angie Dooley stated ‘We are all totally devastated that the Tánaiste is not going to open Ireland’s first Educate Together school in Gorey. With seven VEC schools already available in Wexford, an Educate Together school would have provided real choice in Gorey. I cannot see how yet another VEC school is going to provide a viable alternative to Gorey Community School – they haven’t to date. This is a setback but we will continue to support the national campaign to establish the first Educate Together second-level school.’

The parent group campaigning for an Educate Together school in Gorey is only one of seven active second level start-up groups around the country. In most of these areas there are more and longer established Educate Together schools. In Lucan, for example, where Educate Together is currently in negotiation with Co Dublin VEC in relation to a possible partnership arrangement, there are five Educate Together schools; and Swords and Drogheda both have three. Not far from Gorey, a new campaign has recently emerged in Wicklow/South Dublin, an area which includes six Educate Together primary schools. Parents from other groups will be encouraged by the move towards greater consultation with parents that this new process in Gorey suggests.

Speaking about the emerging process, Paul Rowe said We support consultation with parents as a feature in the decision-making process. However there are many issues to be resolved. We would like to see a level playing field in how state funds are deployed in the process of engaging with parents. It is quite an achievement for a small educational charity to get 35% of local parental preference against the 65% the VEC used all its resources and spent many thousands of tax payers euros achieving. We are confident that if value for money and the opportunity for innovation in education had been evaluation criteria in the process, the decision would have been different’.

Educate Together is an independent educational charity that is patron to 58 primary schools nationwide. It opened its first school in 1978.