A well-known boarding school has confirmed that it will close its doors after 112 years.
Cistercian College Roscrea counts former Taoiseach Brian Cowen,Tanaiste Dick Spring and Sunday Independent Editor Cormac Bourke amongst its past pupils.
However, in a statement released this afternoon, it confirmed that it can no longer afford to keep going as pupil numbers continued to fall.
It is a fee-charging seven-day boarding school for boys run by the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists).
The school was founded in 1905 and it currently has 167 pupils enrolled from around Ireland and abroad.
The statement said a significant fall off in student numbers due to a general decline in demand for boarding facilities is the principal reason behind today’s closure announcement.
The monastery at Mount St Joseph Abbey is not affected by today’s announcement.
Cistercian College will cease taking any new enrolments immediately and will end the majority of student services at the conclusion of this year’s Junior and Leaving Certificate exams in June.
However, a spokesperson said that 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 2nd and 5th Year pupils, after consultation with parents and families of the years concerned and subject to sufficient demand.
The Department of Education and Skills has been informed of the school’s closure and will support the transition process for students.
Dom Richard Purcell, Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey, said: “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."
He continued: “The school has witnessed a 45% drop in enrolment in the past 10 years with just nine 1st Year students enrolled for September 2017. 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,” Dom Richard added.
“I would like to pay tribute to the monks, parents, students and staff, present and past, who contributed so much to the College throughout its history.
"The school has been a vital part of life on the campus for the last 112 years and the monks are extremely proud of its legacy and what it has achieved."
He continued: "The educational needs of today are very different to the needs when Cistercian College was established in 1905. In many ways the school has achieved its original purpose,” Dom Richard concluded.
All staff, parents and students have been informed today that in June 2017, Cistercian College will discontinue its existing 1st, 3rd, Transition Year and 6th Year classes. A consultation will now commence with parents and guardians of the current 2nd and 5th Year pupils to gauge demand for the possible continuation of classes and boarding facilities for these year groups up to June 2018.
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 just one of two remaining boys’ boarding-only schools in the country.
The Trustees of Cistercian College have been forced to subsidise the school over the past number of years, in the expectation that student numbers would eventually return to pre-recession levels in line with the economic recovery nationally.
However, the anticipated uplift in enrolment failed to materialise.
Many initiatives have been introduced in an effort to increase student enrolment but with little or no effect. A range of alternative options was also considered for Cistercian College with a view to generating additional student numbers at the school.
These included 5-day boarding, the introduction of day students, more overseas pupils and making the school co-educational. However, none of these were considered feasible given the College’s geographic location and its current operating model.
Notable former students:
Brian Cowen – Former Taoiseach
Conor Brady – Former Editor of The Irish Times
Cormac Bourke - Editor of the Sunday Independent
Dick Spring – Former international rugby player and Tánaiste
David Andrews – Former Minister for Foreign Affairs
Jim Glennon – Former international rugby player and former TD.
Barry Cowen - Fianna Fáil TD
Mr Justice Vivian Lavan (RIP) – former High Court judge
Willie Mullins – Racehorse trainer and former jockey
Séamus Hennessy – All-Ireland medallist with Tipperary (Hurling)
Gavin Duffy – International rugby player