Pupils without a school must wait on talks
THE fate of 42 pupils with no school place for next September hinges on a crisis meeting to be hosted by Education Minister Mary Coughlan.
The minister hopes to persuade the heavily crowded Gorey Community School, in Co Wexford, to take in extra students. Ms Coughlan said last night that she wanted to ask why the school board had not backed her proposal to provide a grant for new classrooms.
She said that at the meeting, she would reiterate her determination to go ahead with the provision of a new school.
Earlier this week, Ms Coughlan was stunned when the school board rejected her offer of funding to build extra classrooms to accommodate the 42 pupils. She phoned the chairperson of the board, Sr Kathleen McLennan, and arranged to meet her and school principal Michael Finn, next Wednesday.
The offer of extra classrooms is an emergency response to the shortage of second-level places in the town, pending the promised opening of a new school in 2012. However, the community school board is nervous that the 2012 deadline will not be met and that the school will remain under pressure to continue expanding. At the meeting next week, the minister will have to offer the strongest of assurances that the new school will open on time.
Gorey Community School was built for 850 pupils and has expanded to cater for over 1,600, making it the biggest school in the country.
It is the only second-level school in the north Wexford town, where the population has doubled over the past decade.
There has also been significant development in outlying areas, pushing up the numbers of pupils in the 17 primary schools that feed into Gorey Community School. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of pupils rose from 1,540 to 1,609. The board of management has put a cap on admissions on health and safety grounds.
The cap is set at 270 pupils and this year 45 were refused admission. Three of those have dropped off the list. The admissions policy gives priority to siblings and then to pupils from the 17 schools ranked according to distance from Gorey.
Some of the 42 pupils refused admission to Gorey could go to Kilmuckridge Community School or face a lengthy daily round trip to Arklow, in neighbouring Co Wicklow. But up to 30 students have no option.
There is concern about delays to the timetable for opening the new school because it is one of eight to be built under a public private partnership scheme.
Councillor Malcolm Byrne, chair of the Gorey Schools Working Group, which is campaigning on behalf of parents, welcomed the minister's initiative.