Monday 16 September 2019

Small rural schools switching to new patron in hope of more pupils

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A number of rural primary schools that were facing closure are reopening for the new school year under a new patron as the quiet revolution in Irish education continues.

A Church of Ireland school in Co Wexford and three Catholic schools are giving up their religious ethos and becoming multi-denominational State-run community national schools, under the umbrella of their local education and training board (ETB).

Kilnamanagh NS, Oulart, Co Wexford, along with Lecarrow NS, Co Roscommon, and Scoil an Ghleanna NS, Ballinskelligs and Tahilla NS, both in Co Kerry - all of which have experienced a serious decline in numbers - have made the switch.

Parents drove the push for change in the hope new governance, supported by the local ETB, would reverse falling enrolments and ensure a bright future for their schools, but it also represents a small but significant step towards greater diversity in education.

The 10 new community national schools opening this week also include the three that have previously been run under the Steiner model, which are already multi- denominational and are transferring to access the support offered by ETBs in areas such as governance, buildings, IT and human resources.

All seven schools have switched through what is known as the "early movers" process, which allows schools to self-select for a transfer of patronage.

There are also three brand new community national schools opening for 2019-20, bringing to 24 the number under that model.

Meanwhile, the non-denominational patron body, Educate Together, has seven new primary schools, four in Dublin with the others in Glasheen, Cork city, Leixlip, Co Kildare, and Kilcoole/Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, and five new second-level schools.

Educational diversity is getting a further boost with more schools opening under the patronage of the Irish-medium body An Foras Pátrúnachta, the ethos of whose schools depends on parents' wishes.

Irish Independent

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