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Parents play Russian roulette in battle for primary school places

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 CONCERNS: Education Minister Ruairi Quinn

CONCERNS: Education Minister Ruairi Quinn

CONCERNS: Education Minister Ruairi Quinn

THE demand for primary places in Dublin is so intense that there is up to five times the number of applicants compared with available places for children in some schools.

Like a game of Russian roulette, many parents across the city are waiting to learn if luck has been on their side, and if they have been successful in securing the school of their choice for their child.

More than 71,000 children nationwide will start in junior infants this September, as figures show that about 20pc of primary schools are over-subscribed.

In areas of high demand, parents are putting their children's names on multiple lists to be sure of getting into a school.

However, this creates headaches for schools that are planning for incoming students.

The Department of Education said it ensures that every child has a school place. It said it expects that schools in an area can between them cater for demand. If a deficit arises, however, the Department will make additional accommodation available to meet the shortfall.

While parents may be guaranteed a school place, it may not be the one they hoped for in cases where demand outstrips supply.

Different schools operate different enrolment policies. Some accept applications from birth, others only within a year of the proposed entry date.

All eyes are now on proposed legislation by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn that seeks to regulate the admission of children to both primary and post-primary schools.

 

CONCERNED

The proposed regulations would underpin a "fair and transparent enrolment process" that precludes school places being allocated on the basis of waiting lists. There will be a common national earliest date for the commencement of enrolment across the school system.

A new more streamlined approach cannot come soon enough for parents trying to navigate the system, and schools themselves, which would welcome agreed guidelines on enrolment.

Councillor David McGuinness, who represents Dublin 15, told the Herald: "I deal with upset and concerned parents every year who worry if they can get their child into their local school.

"Out in Blanchardstown, we have an additional problem where families had to send children outside of their community as no primary places were available, and now they cannot access their local secondary school. Parents have been caught out badly.

"Significant problems still remain within the Littlepace, Castaheany and Ongar regions of Dublin 15. We have had a huge influx of families to the area, and schools are already at full capacity. Parents are having to travel farther afield to secure school places.

"This impacts them later in life when they try to enrol in their local secondary school.

"Parents have to put their names down for every school just to be sure of getting one place."

Luke O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for Educate Together, told of the demand for its primary schools.

"There are 68 Educate Together primary schools around the country, and each school operates its own enrolment list. There is evidence of huge demand for school places in many areas," he said.

"There are not enough school places to cater for the growing number of families seeking an alterative to denominational education in Dublin 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10."

An Educate Together national school opened in Portobello last year, and it received sanction to open three new schools this year, two of which are at Shellybanks in Dublin 4 and Carpenterstown in Dublin 15, plus one in Knocknacarra in Galway. Mr O'Shaughnessy added that most of Educate Together schools operate first-come, first-served enrolment policies.

It has called for a link to be established between the state funding of schools and an obligation to ensure equality of access to all.

 

PRIORITY

Also popular among parents are the country's gaelscoileanna, whose CEO Blathnaid Ni Ghreachain said: "There are 34 primary schools in Dublin. Of those, 75pc are over-subscribed."

A further breakdown of schools indicates:

* 29pc of them have an over-demand of five to 15 applicants.

* 42pc have an over-demand of 16 to 30 applicants.

* 29pc have an over-demand of 30 plus.

* At least three are refusing more than 100 applicants.

Ms Ni Ghreachain said there are 144 gaelscoileanna at primary level, and 29pc are over-subscribed nationally – but in Dublin that figure rises to 75pc.

"In general, most will give first priority to siblings," she said.

Also important for a lot of Irish-medium schools would be to give priority to Irish speaking families," she added.

Meanwhile, it is unclear just how many state primary schools have a waiting list due to over-subscription. The Department of Education told the Herald that "enrolment is dealt with at local school level and the department therefore does not hold data centrally in relation to school admission applications or waiting lists".

Mount Anville Primary School in Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan, said it generally would have more than 150 applications for 56 places. Last year it managed to cater for all who applied.

Holy Family Junior School in Swords told the Herald it had received more than 250 applications so far this week.

St Vincent De Paul girls school in Griffith Avenue said girls from the infant school and from the area get first priority. This year it has 56 in infant school and expects 95pc of these places to be accepted this year.

fdillon@herald.ie


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