Summertime Trials and Tribulations for Educate Together

After a difficult and trying summer, Educate Together is thrilled to announce that three new schools have opened their doors this morning. The schools are in Rush, Newbridge and Wicklow. This brings the total of Educate Together primary schools in Ireland to 31. It is the fastest growing sector in Irish education and has doubled in size over the past four years.

Huge congratulations are due to each of the voluntary groups that have created these new schools. They have persevered in spite of many problems and the obstacles that have been thrown up at them. While it has always been difficult to open new Educate Together schools, this year has really tested our volunteers to the limit. The new procedures of recognition for new schools, while welcomed, are in practice extremely complex and in places quite unworkable.

According to Jane Mc Carthy, Development Officer;

a huge amount of work and stress is being placed on voluntary groups of parents, who are simply exercising their constitutional right to choose an education for their child.

Last November, Educate Together applied to open seven new primary schools this September. The Department of Education and Science was given more notice of these applications than ever before. However, the new system introduced by the Department has been dogged by delays and administrative difficulties. Despite a public commitment that all new schools would be approved by the end of March, this year’s schools were not finally approved until August 25th, the last week of the summer holidays! In all Educate Together’s experience of opening new schools this is the latest date at which approval has been confirmed. At the centre of these difficulties is the insistence of the Department that it will not become involved in sourcing accommodation for new schools.

The difficulties faced by these voluntary groups of parents, from recruiting staff to signing leases on buildings, have been extremely stressful for all involved, and their achievements in spite of such difficulties are testament to their belief in an educational philosophy that respects and cherishes the identity of children from all religious, social and cultural backgrounds. Educate Together schools are based on the principle that:

“All children have equal rights of access to the school, and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds are equally respected”

Unfortunately Limerick City East Educate Together were refused planning permission on their proposed premises in August, and although they sourced another building (purpose built for educational use, enough space to accommodate the school for 10 years), the DES deemed the rent of the building (€65k per annum) too high and would not sanction recognition for the school.

North East Mayo Educate Together and Clonee/Ongar Educate Together realised in June that they would not be able to source adequate accommodation or meet all the requirements of the DES in time. They have decided instead to work towards setting up schools in 2004/2005.

Educate Together has serious concerns about the fact that while on the one hand, we are told that we have to source temporary accommodation for 7-10 years, when we do locate such a building, the DES refuses to provide the necessary funding. Educate Together once again higlights the absurdity of a system that recognises the legitimate demand of parents for a school and then refuses to provide the accommodation in which it can open. This connects a parent’s rights to their ability to access property and inherently discriminates against the disadvantaged.

The three schools that have opened today are:-

Wicklow Educate Together National School
Has opened in temporary accommodation in part of the Wicklow Bay Hostel in Wicklow town. The maximum number of pupils the building can accommodate is 23 and this will be a mixture of age groups up to 2nd class. Mary Feerick-Byrne has been appointed Principal. Mary was previously a senior teacher at the John Scottus National School in Dublin.

South Kildare Educate Together National School
Has opened in Rosetown Rugby Club outside Newbridge. Temporary structures will be placed on the grounds of the rugby club during the first term and the school will be accommodated here from January. Approximately 20 children, both Junior & Senior Infants will commence on September 1st. Eimear Carey has been appointed Principal. Eimear was previously a senior teacher in Rathfarnham Educate Together National School, Dublin. Rush & Lusk Educate

Together National School
Has opened in the Gate Lodge, Kenure Park with 25 pupils, ranging from Junior Infants to 6th class. Marie Moreau has been appointed Principal. Marie Moreau was previously on secondment with the City of Dublin VEC developing multi-cultural programmes for schools and working in schools in Lesotho, Southern Africa. Educate Together would like to wish all the new schools and Principals the best of luck for the coming year. For further information and enrolment information please contact the Educate Together National Office