106 children left without school places in Dublin

14 Sep 2007
The Irish Times

Insufficient school places to accommodate 106 children in north Co Dublin is "another example of a complete failure of forward planning for school provision", Educate Together chief executive Paul Rowe said yesterday.

His multi-denominational agency will open its second school in Balbriggan on Monday week, a year earlier than planned. On August 27th, the Department of Education asked the organisation to open the school on an emergency basis, when it emerged that 32 children had been left without school places.

By yesterday, applications for places at that school had swelled to 106 and Mr Rowe said the numbers could increase.

The Bracken Educate Together National School was due to open next Monday but demand for places has caused a postponement until September 24th to accommodate the numbers.

Many of the pupils will be immigrants, reflecting the racial mix of the Balbriggan community, Mr Rowe said. In recent days, Educate Together offered places to the 106 applicants. Two junior infants classes will accommodate 56 children while 15 children have been offered places in senior infants and 15 in first class. The remainder, from second to sixth class age, will be accommodated across various classes.

The school will operate from Sunshine House, the St Vincent de Paul holiday centre for children in Balbriggan, until permanent accommodation is put in place.

Although it is due to open in 10 days, the school has not yet been in a position to hire a principal or teachers. Yesterday was the closing date for applications for the principal's job. Educate Together said the number of teachers needed could not be finalised until next week, when it would know how many children had taken up the offer of places.

Mr Rowe, said the school was "very high quality" and the organisation was confident that it would be an excellent school. "And we are delighted with the co-operation we've had with the authorities there to effectively triple the amount of space that we originally were looking for."

However, he criticised the haste with which the school was opening and said new schools were usually planned over a 12- to 18-month period.

"There is a catastrophic failure in the provision of school places for rapidly developing housing areas," Mr Rowe said.

A spokeswoman for the department said it was aware of the extra demand on school places for some months and had approached local schools in April and May to see if they could accommodate larger numbers.

The spokeswoman said it was very difficult to calculate in advance how many places were needed in an area. In August, the number needing places was about 30 but that had nearly doubled in recent weeks, she said.

"The numbers increased during the summer with people moving in and houses being sold. And people will put their children's names down in five or six schools so it is very hard for the schools to know," she said.

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