Friday 23 February 2018

Parents outraged at limits on Educate Together enrolments

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Parents fear siblings will be split by a decision to limit enrolment numbers at multi- denominational schools.

The Department of Education is restricting enrolment at five Educate Together schools to a half-stream limit, which means just 13 new pupils will be enrolled next September.

The decision affects Educate Together schools in Trim, Co Meath, Tramore, Co Waterford, Tuam, Co Galway, New Ross, Co Wexford and Castlebar, Co Mayo. Parents and teachers at the five schools affected have begun a campaign to have the decision reversed.

Ciara Fitzgibbon, whose son attends the Educate Together in Tramore after the family moved home last year, said she was deeply disappointed.

"Unfortunately for our three younger children, these restrictions will exclude them from joining their older brother as we had previously planned," she said.

"That a decision like this can be made in 2018 without any accountability or proper explanation is completely unacceptable. Is this the Ireland we've returned to?"

Amy McGrath moved to Trim with her family five months ago. She had planned to send her daughter to the school, saying she was "so disappointed" at the measure.

"I really hope that it doesn't go through and she can still attend.

"This is the only non-denominational school in the area and we are eager that she receive an education that is not dictated by one religion or any," she said.

The schools were informed they would be allowed a half-stream intake when they were granted permission to set up.

This was because they are situated in locations with no population growth, but have a demand for diversity.

Educate Together described the affected schools as "thriving" with growing waiting lists. It said the move would require them to turn away children and families.

It said the department's decision contradicts why the schools opened and flies in the face of Government claims that the Irish education system supports parental choice.

"Educate Together has been inundated by upset parents in recent days who are now unable to access their school of choice for their children," it said in a statement.

"Educate Together is doing what it can to convince the department to reverse this decision and help those who wish to avail of equality-based schools for their children.

"The school communities concerned have expressed deep shock and frustration at the restrictions."

A statement from the Department of Education said Educate Together had been aware that the five schools would begin as half stream schools with an intake of 13 pupils.

It added: "This arrangement has been reflected in the department's engagement with the patron of the schools, Educate Together, and was reiterated in correspondence and communications with the schools concerned.

"A case has been submitted by Educate Together to the Department of Education to further expand these schools and this is currently under consideration."

Irish Independent

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