Thursday 13 December 2018

Unholy row as Swords parents call for action

Archbishop petitioned on school place crisis as parents campaign

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

John Manning

Desperate Swords parents seeking a school place for their children this September have gone as far as petitioning the Archbishop of Dublin on the issue and are now seeking to engage the Minister for Education on the crisis.

Recently, the Fingal Independent has reported extensively on a school place crisis at primary school level in Swords and the school under the most intense pressure at the centre of this crisis is Holy Family JNS in River Valley.

The school's catchment area has exploded in population and it finds itself over-subscribed by more than 100 pupils, this year who cannot gain access to the school, this September.

Among that number are 27 children who are in particular difficulty, born in November and December of 2012, they will be almost five-years old when the new school year begins this Autumn and face being caught in limbo, unable to gain a school place at their local school or access a further year of free early childcare education.

The parents of these children, 14 of whom have siblings at the local school, and other parents on the waiting list are now ramping up their campaign to have the Department of Education and the Archdiocese patrons of the school, address the situation as a matter of urgency.

The parents' spokesperson, Ashley Gill handed in a letter to the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last week, where he pleaded for the Archbishop to intervene in the crisis.

He said: 'Our children deserve to be part of the solution, not part of an annual statistic. Ignoring the issue or using worn out paper to cover over the cracks, won't make it go away, it will only return again next year. Families have had enough of this annual circus and the lack of support involved.'

Separately, the parents met with Deputy Clare Daly at the weekend in River Valley. Deputy Daly has said she backs their campaign and has committed to raising the issue with the Minister for Education before Easter and with the Children's Ombudsman.

Mr Gill has also met with the school principal, Mark Cunningham and said he 'respects' the school's reluctance to expand class sizes further to accommodate more children from the waiting list, a measure the school took previously when faced with a similar crisis.

However, Mr Gill said that so far, the school's board of management have not met with the parents to discuss the issue and he appealed for that meeting to take place.

The parents recognise that ultimately, the solution must be a new school servicing this expanding part of Swords but in the meantime, there is an immediate crisis that needs to be addressed which they say highlights 'the obvious deficiencies in the Department of Education's approach to somewhere like the capital of Fingal and its expanding population.

Mr Gill said: 'They need to realise that this approach is a mockery of ensuring that a child's entry into our educational system is a seamless one.'

Fingal Independent