Sunday 21 January 2018

Famous boarding school to close due to drop in numbers

Roscrea Cistercian College in Co Offaly, which is to close due to a shortage of pupils Picture: PJ Wright
Roscrea Cistercian College in Co Offaly, which is to close due to a shortage of pupils Picture: PJ Wright

Alan O'Keeffe

Renowned boys' boarding school Cistercian College, Roscrea, is to close down due to a shortage of new pupils.

The closure announcement was made yesterday by the school's trustees and Abbot Richard Purcell, head of the Trappist community of Cistercian monks which has run the school since 1905.

Current annual school fees are €13,950 per pupil. Student numbers have fallen dramatically since the recession brought Ireland's Celtic Tiger boom to an end.

More than 300 boys were enrolled in 2009 in the Co Offaly school - just over the border from Tipperary - but numbers are down to just 167 at present. The economic recovery has failed to result in a hoped-for influx of new students. Only nine boys were enrolled in first year last September.

Read More: Well-known boarding school closes its doors after 112 years

The school's past pupils include former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, former Labour Party leader and Tánaiste Dick Spring, horse trainer Willie Mullins, and former rugby international Jim Glennon.

Despite depleted pupil numbers, the school's rugby team won the Leinster Schools' Senior Cup in 2015 and were beaten in last year's final.

The adjoining Mount St Joseph Abbey will remain open.

New enrolments will cease immediately at the school and the majority of teaching will end at the conclusion of this year's Junior and Leaving Certificate exams in June.

However, in an effort to minimise any distress to existing mid-cycle students facing the State examinations in 2018, the school's management will consider the continuation of Junior and Leaving Certificate cycles for current second and fifth year pupils, after consultation with parents.

"This is a very sad day for the staff, the students and their families, the many thousands of past pupils and of course the monks of Mount St Joseph Abbey. The decision to close was an extremely difficult one for the community to make," said Abbot Purcell.

He added: "The school has witnessed a 45pc drop in enrolment in the past 10 years. Clearly this is unsustainable and the school is simply no longer financially viable.

"We were sadly left with no option but to conduct what we anticipate will be a phased closure of the school over the next 16 months."

"I hope that the Benedictine ethos, 'that the strong have something to strive for and the weak are not discouraged', will live on in those that the College has influenced.

There are currently only five religious-run Catholic schools in Ireland that offer boarding facilities today, compared to more than 30 such schools in 1990. Cistercian College is currently one of two remaining boys' boarding-only schools in the country.

Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan said he wished to express "sincere gratitude" to the monks and to the many other dedicated staff and students, who have carried out their work in the school since 1905.

Irish Independent

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