Saturday 17 March 2018

Top school enrols boys who won't start classes until 2027

MIXED BLESSING: Benedictine monk Mark Patrick Hederman, OSB, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick. Photo:
Brian Gavin/Press 22
MIXED BLESSING: Benedictine monk Mark Patrick Hederman, OSB, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick. Photo: Brian Gavin/Press 22

Barry Duggan

Private schools, a fail-safe barometer of the health of the economy, are booming.

More than any other sector, fee-paying secondary schools took a massive hit in the recession.

At one stage about a fifth of the State's 55 fee-charging institutions held discussions with the Department of Education about entering the free scheme and abandoning fees altogether.

Enrolments were down and the parents of many children at private schools simply could not pay the fees.

Now, the sector has returned to good health.

Parents are once again putting their sons' names down for one of the most exclusive private secondary schools in the country shortly after they are born.

Glenstal Abbey School, located in Murroe, Co Limerick, has applications up to the school year beginning 2027.

And they are already oversubscribed for first-year pupils a year in advance for the first time since the Celtic Tiger days.

They also have their largest ever roll-call of boys in their 80-year history, with 237 pupils.

In a sign of the recovering economy, the student population has risen by 56 in the last three years, said Noelle O'Brien, director of admissions and development.

"Our numbers are up to 237, that's an increase of 19 on last year. We have taken in 65 new students from first year to fifth year - local, national and international. We had to turn people down for places in fourth and fifth year; we don't take any students in sixth.

"We are oversubscribed by a third for first years in 2016. We are currently inviting applications for first year in 2017," said Ms O'Brien.

Pupil numbers will ultimately swell to 270 following a €6m school extension officially opened in January 2014.

Currently, fees for boarders stand at €17,950 and €10,600 for day pupils.

Former pupils include Coolmore's John Magnier, and Paddy Cosgrave, founder and CEO of Web Summit.

Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal, remains convinced that girls should attend the school.

"Every major decision made in a Benedictine monastery should be the result of discussion and consensus among the members. Co-education is a fraught topic. My own already declared view is in favour of such an eventuality in our school. Here in our own community at Glenstal Abbey, the jury is still out."

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