Fresh appeal to minister for school places for boys
A meeting is being sought with the Minister for Education over the lack of secondary school places in Wexford town for boys as the county experiences a 'demographic wave' of students passing through the system.
Cllr George Lawlor raised the issue at last week's meeting of Wexford County Council and was told by council CEO Tom Enright that the local authority is trying to source two sites for new schools to be built.
Cllr Lawlor said the offers have gone out for students to attend schools in Wexford.
'We still find ourselves in the same situation where families are really suffering the stress involved in not knowing where their children will be attending secondary school next September. We have spoken about IDA projects and attracting investment, but if people are relocating to Wexford and they suddenly find there is no place for their kids to go to school, I think we are at nothing. You can build roads and put in natural gas but this is a fundamental issue.'
Cllr Lawlor said there are a number of people born and reared in Wexford town who cannot get their child into a school, while people from Gorey and other counties can.
'It's a crisis for boys. There will be 200 new places in the new Loreto which will make the problem smaller for girls but it's a very different serious issue for boys.'
He suggested the council write as a body to the minister to request a meeting.
'We are dealing with a department which is so intransigent that they built the new CBS school, not allowing one extra place for growth.'
He said there are children - mainly boys - being denied places in schools just because their father doesn't hail from Wexford town.
'We have already had a consultant at Wexford General Hospital who was not able to secure a place in Wexford for his child.'
Cllr Malcolm Byrne said the former Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, hails from Wexford, was in charge of the purse strings when the schools were being funded.
'That is absolutely unfair. I could tell you who was responsible. You didn't build a single school! That is ridiculous!' Cllr Lawlor said.
Cllr Byrne replied: 'When I was raising this issue two years ago you accused me of scaremongering.'
'That is a lie,' Cllr Lawlor responded.
Cllr Byrne said the problem exists across the county. 'We have a very young population. This is an issue where proper planning comes in.'
He said based on the 2016 Census planning is needed, not only to zone areas for more schools, but also for more nursing homes to cater for our ageing population.
Referring to the CBS school plan, Cllr John Hegarty said: 'That wasn't a school decision.'
Cllr Anthony Kelly seconded Cllr Lawlor's proposal.
Cllr Oisin O'Connell said: 'It's not only a Wexford town issue, it's a New Ross issue also. Students in New Ross are bussing it into Wexford and Wexford students are bussing it somewhere else. It's also at primary level.
'We are facing this demographic wave passing through the system. We can't just be thinking in terms of the next two years but in terms of the next five to ten years.'
Cllr Jim Moore said there is a bigger, longer term problem of high population growth the parts of the county.
'We, in the Wexford Borough District, have met many parents last year and the previous year in relation to this problem and a deputation from Wexford met the minister a good while ago requesting they reopen the case for an extra school in Wexford town.'
CEO Tom Enright said he attended the delegation meeting with the minister. 'We have had a number of discussions with the Department of Education. It's not a simple matter. The department will say there isn't sufficient space within schools to meet the demand needed. They will say there is a peak of students working their way through the primary system at the moment.
'They will say there will be a fall off in demand after that. However, we are trying to be more ambitious in this county and we're trying to get population growth here. Out population target is higher than the national average and we are working with the Department of Education on new schools as people tend to gravitate towards them and move away from less reputable schools.'
Mr Enright said the council is looking at two sites for post primary schools.
'We are hopeful we can find suitable locations which will increase the space capacity. It's a problem that will remain for a while with the Department of Education.'