Thursday, August 02, 2018

Brannoxtown NS 'will open in September'

LUNCHTIME UPDATE: The Diary has just learned that the Department of Education & Skills has sanctioned the reopening of Brannoxtown NS as a Community National School this September, following discussions today with the new patron, KWETB.

"If we don't get it open this September, then we'll lose everything."

That was the blunt assessment from local residents of Brannockstown last evening about the prospect of reopening their school, as articulated by Richie Kelly, writes Brian Byrne.

And at the first meeting between the residents and the new patron, the Kildare and Wicklow Education Education and Training Board (KWETB), they were assured that if even a 'handful' of new pupils were available, the school will open next month.

Deirdre Keyes, the new Chief Executive of KWETB, opened the meeting by saying she was 'delighted and privileged' to be part of a 'lovely story about a community that worked very hard to save their school'.

She said the Department of Education & Skills had not mandated a particular re-opening year, but that it should be done 'in consultation with the community', which this meeting was.

"I know you lobbied very hard, and thank you for the vote of confidence that you have made in us," she added. "It has taken some time for the handover of patronage to be completed, so the timing is now very tight. But if you would take that leap of faith with us, we would very quickly get the school up and running."

She said it would be KWETB's absolute preference to reopen the school this September, and if they could get 'sufficient, small enough' numbers to do that, the organisation would then do everything they could to grow the school.

Seamus Conboy, Primary Support Officer for Community National Schools with Education and Training Boards Ireland, reiterated the basic elements of CNS as multidenominational schools for those present, emphasising the child-focused, equality-based ethos and curriculum.

Brannockstown resident Tracey O'Dwyer said everybody in the community will help to get the word out that the school can reopen quickly, but said there could be issues about children already being enrolled elsewhere, and uniforms bought.

Gerry O'Donoghue, formerly the Special Manager appointed last year for Brannoxtown NS when it was imminently going to close, said the venture will have the full support of the wider Kilcullen community. "Both of the other schools in the parish are on record that they would like to have Brannoxtown reopen," he noted, "and would facilitate any parental choice to move children back to Brannoxtown."

He added that it is essential the Department is 'realistic ... and creative' on the situation and has to give the venture some leeway in relation to initial numbers.

The overall sense from the meeting was that the matter is now 'positive' and that it is important to 'jump on the back of that'. "The momentum is here, and the village wants the school open," Richie Kelly said.

Subsequent to consultation between KWETB and the Department, an announcement may be made later today.

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