Educate Together has raised concerns with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in relation to the restriction of pupil intake of a number of Educate Together national schools opened between 2014 and 2016 under the Government’s school patronage divestment process.
Recently received correspondence from the DES to Tramore ETNS, New Ross ETNS and Trim ETNS stated that they must each adhere strictly to a ½ stream intake of 13 junior infants for the 2018/19 school year. Similar information was communicated to Tuam ETNS and Castlebar ETNS in 2017. This recent correspondence outlines a new policy of the patronage divesting process as ‘enabling diversity of provision in an area where there is no demographic imperative to establish a school, however, the intention is that the establishment of a divested school does not adversely affect existing primary schools in the area.’ Educate Together considers that this directly contradicts the policy in which the schools opened, (which originated through the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism), which sought to identify areas where schools should be transferred through amalgamation and closures.
Educate Together agreed to open these schools on the basis of their long-term viability as full stream developing schools. In the case of each school the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism reports (see attached) recommended that "Taking account of likely long-term requirements, accommodation options for a full stream of provision should be considered.”
All five of these Educate Together schools have gone from strength to strength over the past number of years, and the majority have demonstrated pre-enrolment numbers for 2018/19 to accommodate a full stream. These school communities have expressed deep frustrations at the prescribed barriers to further development being applied by the DES. These schools are now effectively being told to turn away large numbers of families who will not now be able to access the equality-based education they had hoped for their children.
The DES is now retrospectively seeking to change the basis upon which Educate Together agreed to proceed on – and to impose a restriction that violates the lawful preference of a significant numbers families in these areas. Educate Together has written to the DES asking for clarification on what statutory or constitutional basis the Department is now retrospectively proposing these changes.
Report on the surveys regarding parental preferences on primary school patronage (New Ross and Tuam) can be accessed here
Report on the pilot surveys regarding parental preferences on primary school patronage (Castlebar, Tramore and Trim) can be accessed here