The Department of Education and Skills has this morning announced the details of 13 new primary and second-level schools to open in 2017 and 2018. This is a hugely significant development for the thousands of parents around Ireland who have long been calling for the establishment of Educate Together schools for their children.
Commenting on the announcement, Educate Together’s New Schools Manager Amy Mulvihill said: “Brand new schools will open across Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Laois. We anticipate that we will apply for the patronage of many of these schools, due to the increasing and substantial demand for equality-based school places throughout the country. Educate Together has appealed to the Government many times to help us meet this legitimate demand from parents all over Ireland and we are delighted to see it being met today.”
Demand for Educate Together schools can be seen in the fact that many of our schools in urban areas are either four or five times oversubscribed. These newly announced schools, should they be designated as Educate Together schools, will optimise parental choice and strengthen diversity of provision in each area.
Additional Areas “Under Ongoing Review”
The Department has also stated that a range of areas experiencing increased demographic pressure and will “be kept under ongoing review.” Today, there are Educate Together start-up groups in some of these areas with a substantial number of children signed up to waiting lists. Jennifer Buttner, Chair of the Campaign Group for Second-level Educate Together School in Kildare South commented on this development:
“We are extremely disappointed that Kildare South has not been granted a new second-level school school. Extensions have been granted for existing second-level schools, but this policy of extensions over new builds is not the answer. Extensions neither provide for choice nor diversity in provision. Extensions do not address the need for an ASD unit in this area, and all our indications are that extensions will be insufficient to meet demand. Extensions do not acknowledge the almost 1,900 children whose parents want an Educate Together Second-level in Kildare South.”
Educate Together will continue to work with grassroots parental campaign groups and the Department to assess the likelihood of further schools in these areas.
Major School Building Projects 2016 – 2021
In additional exciting news, the Department has also announced the school building programme for the years 2016 – 2021. Under the programme, 14 Educate Together schools will have new permanent buildings constructed: Knocknacarra ETNS, Wexford ETNS, Ennis ETNS, Ballinteer ETNS, Dublin 7 ETNS, Claregalway ETNS, Rochestown ETNS, Maynooth ETNS, Tralee ETNS, Rush & Lusk ETNS, Pelletstown ETNS, Shellybanks ETNS, Stepaside ETSS and Bremore ETSS.
Amy Mulvihill again: “We are delighted for these Educate Together school communities, many of which have been waiting for permanent accommodation for years now. These new buildings will have a hugely positive impact on the students in their respective schools. The Government’s pledge to eliminate the use of prefabs is most welcome. Educate Together acknowledges that hard work done in difficult times by the Department to deliver fit-for-purpose school buildings all over Ireland.”
Educate Together hopes that these newly announced schools will be built under strict regulations to ensure high standards of fire protection, safety and environmental responsibility. Educate Together trusts that these buildings with be fit for purpose and meet the needs of the students who will spend much of their formative years there.
Educate Together would also like to point out that these new schools are separate from those in the remaining 19 areas around Ireland cited for divestment. Parents in 19 distinct areas around Ireland specifically chose an equality-based Educate Together school, and their views must be respected. We are working hard to bring divestment plans to fruition in addition to working on applying for these newly announced schools schools. 300 Educate Together national schools, and an equivalent number of second-level schools, are now needed.