herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Country's smallest school doubles its pupils... to two

THREE’S COMPANY: Principal Stacey McAuley with Alex Keogh and Ella Gilsenan at Scoil Aoife in Tallaght
THREE’S COMPANY: Principal Stacey McAuley with Alex Keogh and Ella Gilsenan at Scoil Aoife in Tallaght

IRELAND'S smallest national school has doubled its size - to just two pupils.

Scoil Aoife opened its doors in Tallaght for the first time last week for a single child, Ella Gilsenan (4), who completed her first week at 'big school' alone.

The fledgling community national school could face closure if class sizes don't increase, but progress on that front was made this week when Alex Keogh (4) joined Ella in the junior infant class taught by principal and only teacher Stacey McAuley.

"If enrolments don't increase it obviously wouldn't be viable with just two students," Ms McAuley, told the Herald.

Despite the bizarre start to the school year, Ms McAuley is confident that the school will attract more pupils before the end of the month.

Interest

The model of community schooling is popular and that as word gets out local interest in the school is rising, she said.

The classroom can accommodate up to 16 pupils but the school may be able to go on with just seven.

"We certainly won't be turning anyone away," she added, saying that six expressions of interest have already been lodged.

The school is currently in temporary accommodation in Brookfield Community Centre.

Ms McAuley is appealing for parents to enrol their children, and is hosting an information evening taking place in the school today.

Meanwhile, Ella's mum Kelly Gilsenan spoke of waving off her daughter on the first day in school with no classmates.

"I was worried that she would be sitting playing by herself," she admitted.

"I had been telling her all summer about how she would be in big school with her friends - and then there was no one else there.

"But she settled in straight away. Once she is happy that's the main thing," Ms Gilsenan added.

Ella was joined by Alex this week and the pair gelled straight away.

His mum, Gillian, said she enrolled him when she heard about Scoil Aoife.

"He is shy and I didn't want him in a class of 30," she explained.

"You couldn't get the attention that Alex is getting there if you paid for it," added Ms Keogh.

The Department of Education will ultimately decide the school's future.

A spokesperson said that current and future enrolments would be discussed, but did not wish to make a further comment.

hnews@herald.ie

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