Minister for Education in Breach of Public Commitments

The Minister for Education and Science, Noel Dempsey has breached commitments made publicly to parents seeking new schools for their children this September. This is seriously harming the ability of parents to plan for their children’s education and may harm the ability of the groups proposing such schools to provide the necessary resources in time to open this year.

The delay in the announcement of the Minister’s decisions on the recognition of new schools is another example of the increasing restrictions being placed on the development of schools that seek to address new demand in the Irish system.

In September 2002, the Dept. of Education & Science announced revised application procedures for new primary schools seeking recognition for September 2003. As part of this procedure, a formal notification of intent to apply for recognition had to be submitted to the DES by November 1st, with a formal application for recognition to be submitted by January 31st, 2003. In return, it was stated in the Circular entitled Recognition of New Primary Schools – Application Procedure, issued bythe Planning Section of the DES, that the decision of the Minister for Education & Science on the application for recognition would be communicated to the Patron body and made public by April 30th, 2003.

As the Patron Body for the most number of applications submitted this year, we have not as yet received any decision from the Minister, and are unable to receive a revised date from the Minister’s office.
Groups of voluntary parents have put much time and effort into creating these schools. For the 6 new groups of volunteer parentswho wish to establish an Educate Together school in their area, he above time-scales exerted immense pressure with the financial costs of submitting such an application being incurred by individuals.

The working groups have been charged with the task of:-

  • Locating a temporary premises for the school, which can accommodate a growing school for 7-10 years ( an enormous task considering that a lease for longer than 4 years and 9 months bestows certain rights of tenure)
  • The task of launching a Pre-enrolment list and ensuring that as many people as possible are provided with choice regarding the education of their children
  • Fund-raising – a start-up school not only has to fund the entire costs of start-up until the school opens, it also has to cover a percentage of the rental costs, and often has to cover a number of months rent e.g. June – September.
  • Publicity – a new school has to gather support from many sources, and therefore needs publicity from local media.

The 6 groups who have committed to setting up an Educate Together school and worked tirelessly to do so, have adhered to the timescales as set down by the DES, and were reassured that the Minister would also meet the timescale of April 30th. This has not happened, and despite numerous efforts to receive a firm timescale from the Minister’s office, we have not been able to get any information. This delay is already seriously preventing the new schools from moving on – they are unable to form Acting Boards of Managements, unable to recruit a Principal, unable to negotiate & sign a lease on prospective premises as agreed and unable to either offer pupil places, or reassure parents that the school is actually going ahead.

The proposed new Educate Together schools are in the following areas:
Clonee/Ongar, Co. Fingal, Rush/Lusk, Co. Fingal, Newbridge, Co.Kildare, Wicklow Town, Ballina, Co. Mayo, Limerick City East

Obviously the same difficulties apply to new schools proposed by other providers.