Future of schools up in the air

By Maurice Garvey

SHOCK in the community of Ballyfermot last week after confirmation that three secondary schools are considering proposals to amalgamate into one co-educational facility.

The trustees of Catholic secondary schools – Caritas College, St John’s College and St Dominic’s College -  are in the process of consulting a number of options with relevant stakeholders.

St Dominics 02

St Dominic's College

In a statement to The Echo, the trustees Le Chéile and CEIST, say the preferred option is the amalgamation of three schools on one site.

The trustees said they wish to ensure the broadest possible educational choices to students but moving forward, “the three schools working separately will be unable to provide the widest range of subject and programme choice which Ballyfermot deserves.”

Local sources have indicated a lack of enrollment numbers at the single sex schools to be an issue.

St John’s is deemed the likely location for a co-ed facility.

Meetings were held at the schools on Tuesday night (January 29), at 5pm, 6pm and 7pm at St Dominic’s, St John’s and Caritas respectively.

Parents criticised the schools for “vague” text messages sent out prior to the meetings that said nothing of the proposed amalgamation.

A message from one of the schools, shared online by a parent, said the information meeting was being held to “discuss planning for the future development of education.”

Martin Walsh, who has a son and daughter attending St Dominic’s and St John’s, attended all three meetings, but said they were poorly attended.

“They mentioned a drop of enrollment and a declining population but Ballyfermot has the highest birth-rate in Europe, according to the CSO,” said Walsh, who was involved in an unsuccessful campaign to save De La Salle National School a number of years ago.

“Currently, there are between 850 to 900 students in the three schools. The most St John’s ever had was 700 students in the early 1990s.”

People Before Profit Councillor Hazel De Nortúin said the bombshell has thrown a “dark cloud” over the area.

“We already have uncertainty surrounding De La Salle lands, and now the future of three schools is thrown up in the air,” she said.

“It is horrible for the area to see what is happening to our institutions, but anything that does happen, needs to be carried out in consultation with the community as a collective.”

Walsh said the majority of parents are “angry”, particularly with De La Salle set to close at the end of the school year.

“Many kids chose to go to a single sex school, and studies show it is better for kids academically,” he said.

“If this happens, there will be no option for single sex schools in Ballyfermot. During the campaign for De La Salle, only 22 per cent of parents said they wanted co-educational.”

A statement by the Trustees of the three schools said they were in the “process of consulting with their partners in education – boards of management, teaching staffs, parents and students - as to the future  of voluntary post-primary education in the area.”

“The trustees have examined a number of options for the future. Their preferred option is the amalgamation of the three schools on one site to provide a single coeducational school, with a full range of facilities and services, to provide a full educational experience for the boys and girls of the area, continuing with the long tradition of Catholic post-primary education in Ballyfermot.

“Discussions are at the consultation stage, after which the trustees (Le Chéile and CEIST) will review the situation and return to the school partners.”

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