Friday, November 20, 2015

School Campaign challenges Department analysis

The South Kildare Secondary School Campaign has challenged the Department of Education demographic analysis of south Kildare, which suggests that extensions planned for two Newbridge and one Kilcullen second level colleges will satisfy current and future demand for places, writes Brian Byrne.

In a meeting with Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan, a delegation from the Campaign also expressed 'extreme disappointment' that no new second level school is planned for the area in the School Buildings Projects plan which had been announced on the same day. The group asked that a promised ongoing review of the demographics, with a view to possible provision of a new school after 2018, be brought forward.

Also present were South Kildare TDs Jack Wall, Martin Heydon and Sean O’Fearghail and councillors Fiona McLoughlin Healy and Mark Wall, as well as representatives from the Department's Forward Planning Section.

Consequent to the meeting, the Campaign will be provided with the demographic data on which the Department based their analysis for the six-year plan. This was welcomed by the group's chairperson, Jennifer Buttner.

“We look forward to reviewing those and having a follow-up meeting as soon as possible," she said in a statement afterwards. "Local data on the ground, in relation to people’s movements for second-level places, can often be quite different from that perceived by the planning office."

Most local second-level schools have now made their offers to sixth class children for September 2016, and the Campaign says early indications are that many more children this year, compared to last year, still have no school place offer for September 2016.

"These parents are now forced to look for alternative options outside the area, which is unacceptable," Jennifer Buttner says. "In Kilcullen alone, the enrolment policy change that Cross & Passion College made this year, as a result of demand, is having a significant effect on the six feeder schools outside the defined catchment area. Many children in those feeder schools who didn’t have an older sibling already in CPC, did not secure a place this year."

The Campaign group also challenged the Department’s school extension policy, which they say neither provides for choice nor diversity, and expressed further concern that they could get no update on provision for a much needed Autism unit in Newbridge.

The Campaign says it has 1,900 children's names registered by parents who want a new Educate Together second level school, and it will be registering further such expressions of interest on Thursday 26 November at Tesco in Newbridge.