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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Families outraged over lack of bus to Educate Together secondary school

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 28/08/2014 | 02:30

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Emma Dunne and daughter Isobel (12), left; Lisa Moore and daughter Laragh (12); and Wioletta Wielichowska and her daughter Patrycja Baranowska. Picture: Arthur Carron

Parents of first years at a new Educate Together secondary school are outraged at the lack of transport for their children.

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Up to 15 families from Dublin, Meath and Louth claim they are eligible for a free bus service to Ballymakenny College, a new school, run jointly by Educate Together and the Louth Meath Education and Training Board.

The families say they are entitled to transport on the grounds that they are continuing their children's education in an Educate Together school, and its ethos is important to them.

However, since the school opened on Friday, three families from Balbriggan in Dublin have been forced to car pool to the multi-denominational school, in Drogheda, Louth, about 20 kilometres away.

Emma Dunne, whose daughter Isobel (12) attended Balbriggan Educate Together primary school, was certain that transport would be provided.

"We were assured by the bus inspector, we met the online requirements on choosing a school based on ethos and we met the criteria for numbers and distance," she said, adding some were informed of the bus route and pick-up times.

"We had banked on the bus and all of a sudden a loop hole was found and it was pulled from under us." Parents say they can't afford a private bus service and are concerned the issue will force some to drop out.

Lisa Moore, whose daughter Laragh also attended Balbriggan Educate Together primary school said: "We are furious that our children should be discriminated against in this way. We chose Ballymakenny because of the child centred learning and the democratic approach. It's the nearest school with that ethos."

'Promised'

She also claims a bus was originally promised over the year ago. "We were reassured that we would get the exact same treatment and rights as children continuing in an Irish-speaking school and would be treated with the same respect," she said.

Under the terms of the school transport scheme, children are eligible for transport where they reside no less than 4.8km from, and are attending their nearest school as determined by the Department of Education and Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language.

In an email to parents, Junior Education Minister Damien English, a local TD, said some applications from Balbriggan were deemed ineligible because they reside closer to community colleges, in Balbriggan, and Laytown, Co Meath.

A spokesperson for the parents group said: "'Community school' is a model for management and does not describe the 'ethos' of the school. The ethos of Ballymakenny College is Educate Together."

Ms Moore said Ballymakenny College was their school of choice.

"If the issue of designation of ethos is not resolved then nothing has changed,".

"I'm devastated, we picked the school for its ethos, religion and iPads, it's an exciting time for my daughter but our happiness it's clouded by this problem," said mother Wioletta Wielichowska, from Balbriggan.

Irish Independent

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