herald

Monday 20 November 2017

Schools 'mess' leaves Sadie (5) without a place for next year

Ashley Gill with daughter Sadie
Ashley Gill with daughter Sadie

Desperate parents fighting to get a school place for their children are calling on the Government and the Archbishop of Dublin to intervene.

Hundreds of parents from River Valley, Swords, whose children are ready to start junior infants in September, are being told that every school in their locality is full to capacity.

With a population of 68,000, many schools in the area are over-subscribed. Age restrictions and the "baptism barrier" are among the reasons why some children are not eligible for admission.

The Holy Family National School in Swords, for example, prioritises children based on religion and age. With 107 pupils on its waiting list, 27 children will be too old to access free early childcare education if they don't get a place this autumn.

Siblings

Some 14 of these children have siblings at Holy Family NS, but that does not increase their chances of being admitted.

Parents have appealed to the Department of Education and the Archdiocese patrons of the school to address the situation. However, parents' spokesperson Ashley Gill said both had no interest in meeting them.

"I hand-delivered a letter to the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, asking him to intervene. I also requested a meeting with the Department of Education, but they said they didn't feel it was appropriate. We're getting nowhere with either of them," he said.

Mr Gill's five-year-old daughter, Sadie, is one of the children who may have to postpone their first year in primary school.

Sadie will also not be eligible for Government funding as she turns five in November.

"My wife and I are both working parents who send our daughter to creche. It looks like we will have to do it for another year, which will cost us up to €10,000," said Mr Gill.

"We're caught at both ends of this situation. We not only have no school place for her, but also no more funding."

Heartbroken

Mr Gill, whose wife is pregnant, said he is sure their daughter will be heartbroken when she finds out.

"It's going to be extremely stressful for families like ours who will have to tell our children that they are not going to big school. Four-year-olds know full well that they're supposed to be starting junior infants in September," he said.

"Unfortunately for Sadie, she will be a year behind everyone else and will lose touch with her friends at creche. The Department of Education needs to sort this mess out."

The Department said there are a total of 13 primary schools in the Swords school planning area, with 11 schools enrolling junior infants. Indications are that pupils on the waiting list of one school are also on the waiting lists for others.

"The school enrolment position for September 2017 will be clarified when the schools concerned have completed their enrolment process," it said.

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