Wednesday 26 September 2018

Five Educate Together primary schools given green light to enrol more pupils

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Department of Education has cleared the way for five Educate Together primary schools to enrol more pupils.

All five schools opened under the Government ‘divestment’ scheme to provide more choice for families in a system dominated by religious-run schools

But a major row was triggered after the schools - in  Tramore, New Ross, Trim, Tuam and Castlebar - were told that they must restrict enrolments.

Despite growing demand from parents and waiting lists for places, the Department advised that they could only take in a “half stream” – 13 junior infants a year.

There was added fury when Education Minister Richard Bruton said his Department could not afford to build additional schools “just because people do not want the schools that are already in place’.

Discussions between Educate Together and the Department last week ended in broad agreement on a resolution, and arrangements for each individual schools are set out in a letter from the Department to the patron body today.

Education Minister Richard Bruton
Education Minister Richard Bruton

In those discussions, Educate Together acknowledged that availability of accommodation was a factor in some cases.

The schools in Tramore and New Ross have now been told that they can increase enrolments in September, subject to availability of accommodation.

The school in Trim, has also been given agreement to grow enrolment subject to what is  feasible on the permanent school site, from a planning and technical point of view.

In Castlebar and Tuam, the Department is willing to facilitate the expansion in Educate Together pupil numbers as existing buildings are freed up arising from the rationalisation of schools in the two areas.

Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe said they were delighted that the “discriminatory restrictions on the five schools are no longer in place and that the Department has agreed that they can be facilitated to grow to eight classroom, full-stream schools, as accommodation becomes available.”

Mr Rowe  said each school was in an important urban centre in rural Ireland  and providing choice was essential to regional development as, without balanced provision of education, it was not possible to attract inward investment, returning emigrants or creative industries to these areas.

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