Thursday, April 19, 2018

Three patron groups 'interested in Brannoxtown NS'

There are three educational patron bodies interested in the possibility of reopening Brannoxtown NS, a meeting in the school heard last night, writes Brian Byrne.

These are the Educational and Training Board (KWETB), the Gaelscoil patron An Foras Pátrúnachta, and Educate Together.

The meeting had been called by Save Our School Brannoxtown (SOSB) to update the community on the situation consequent on the decision of the Archbishop to close the school and divest it to another patron should one be found.

SOSB's Conor O'Toole said it was 'positive' that three organisations were interested in the school ten months after it had reached the crisis stage related to rapidly falling numbers.

The Special Manager appointed last autumn, Gerry O'Donoghue, said it had been 'pretty inevitable' that things would reach this point, when the school reopened in December with just three pupils. "We looked at all different scenarios, and eventually the patron took the view that the thing to do was to extinguish the school as a Catholic one, redeploy the teaching staff and make the ancillary staff redundant."

He said the future of the school is now with the Department of Education, which is obliged to ask other patron organisations if they are interested in taking it over. "The next step by these will be to harvest local opinion about the future of the school, and each will then take it from there."

The capacity of the school building is for up to four mainstream teachers, with potential pupils numbers in excess of 84. But a minimum of 17 pupils are needed for the school to be reopened under any new regime.

A wide-ranging discussion through the evening included matters such as ownership of the facility, the possibility of it being used as an 'outreach' of an existing school in the parish, and how best to establish what is a preferred option in the community.

It was noted that planning restrictions on local development are a disincentive to young families settling in Brannockstown, and future pupils under any patronage may have to be attracted from outside. But the pressure already evident in other schools means that there is a need for more school facilities in the parish.

The meeting concluded with a proposal that the three interested patron bodies be asked to hold an Open Day in the school to show the community what they might be able to offer. SOSB would continue for the moment as a liaison group for the community in any further discussions.

Conor O'Toole thanked those who had participated in the meeting, saying it was a 'very encouraging' turnout. "We always knew there is great heart in Brannockstown, and we will continue to do our best to get a school back, up and running for you."