Educate Together marked the new school year with the opening of five primary schools on September 1st:
• Knocknacarra Educate Together National School in Galway city.
• Newtownwhite Educate Together National School, located outside Ballina in Co. Mayo.
• Tramore Educate Together National School on Pond Rd., Tramore, Co. Waterford.
• Trim Educate Together National School on Kildalkey Road, Co. Meath.
• Shellybanks Educate Together National School, formerly Dublin 4 ETNS and located on Simmonscourt Road, Dublin 4.
With the opening of Malahide / Portmarnock ETNS last Friday, this takes to six the number of Educate Together primary schools opening this year, and to 74 the total number of Educate Together national schools across the country.
Three of these new schools – in Ballina, Trim and Tramore – are opening as part of the ongoing school patronage divestment process. This process saw parental surveys carried out throughout Ireland in 2012 and 2013. As a result, the Department recommended changes of school management to Educate Together in 25 areas around the country.
Newtownwhite ETNS is the first Educate Together National School in Co. Mayo. This school has come about through the re-assignment of patronage of Newtownwhite NS, which was a Church of Ireland National School located outside Ballina.
Present at the opening of the new school today was An Taoiseach Enda Kenny who commented, “This is an important day in the education system. It’s very important that our children, the next generation, be raised in an ethos that gives them a sense of values, principles, ethics, environment, of issues about human rights and humanity. When they grow up they will play their part in a world that will be changed utterly. We hope that Newtownwhite in its own way, as well as the four other Educate Together schools opening today, will be a bright light in the evolving system of education that we have in Ireland.”
Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe, also speaking at the event, remarked: “This is a great day for parents in the Ballina area, who finally have the choice of an Educate Together national school. We want to ensure that parents in every county in Ireland have this choice, and as the first Educate Together school in Mayo, and the first school where patronage is being directly transferred while keeping the school open, this is an important step”.
Discussions on the remaining areas where schools are to be divested are ongoing between the relevant patrons and the Department. Educate Together is calling for faster progress towards satisfying parental demand.
Paul Rowe again: “While we are pleased to be able to provide choice for families in Ballina, Tramore and Trim today, funding needs to be allocated to the school patronage divestment programme if real progress is to be made in other parts of the country. It is not credible for the government to have a major strategic programme of infrastructural change without appropriate funding. The determination that this programme should be a 'no cost' programme is unrealistic. The necessary community development, project management, recruitment and support work to establish a new primary school costs Educate Together an average of €95,000. We call on the government to immediately allocate a minimum of €5million for this programme in the current budget cycle.”
The opening of these Educate Together schools this week will not be enough to meet the rising demand for this model of education. Paul Rowe again: “There are still large areas of the country where parents have no alternative but to send their children to denominational schools, sometimes against their conscience and lawful preference. We are working towards the day when every family can access an Educate Together school within 30 minutes travel time from their home. Our estimate is that nationally we need around 250 Educate Together schools to achieve this. Today we have 74. There is much to do.”
Demand for Educate Together schools has been steadily increasing in recent years, and the organisation is the fastest-growing school patron body in Ireland. As well as expanding its network of primary schools, Educate Together has also opened its first three second-level schools this year in Dublin and Louth. It is also officially opening its first primary school in England, in Redfield, Bristol, on 5th September.