Education Department Demands Educate Together Schools Downsize and Turn Away Families - in Breach of Department’s Own Recommendations and Policies

Large numbers of children are being prevented from attending Educate Together schools in counties Waterford, Wexford, Meath, Galway and Mayo by the Department of Education ans Skills (DES). Educate Together is today calling for a reversal of a recent DES decision to limit schools’ pupil intake to just 13 Junior Infants per year from September. 

Tramore ETNS, New Ross ETNS, Trim ETNS, Tuam ETNS and Castlebar ETNS - thriving schools with growing waiting lists - are now being requiring them to turn away children and families. This DES u-turn contradicts the basis on which the schools opened and flies in the face of Government claims that the Irish education system supports ‘parental choice’.

Commenting on the development, Educate Together’s New Schools Manager Adelaide Nic Chárthaigh: 

“All five of these Educate Together schools have gone from strength to strength over the years, and the majority have demonstrated demand from families far greater than 13 pupils per year. Educate Together has been inundated by upset parents in recent days who are now unable to access their school of choice for their children. Educate Together is doing it can to convince the Department to reverse this decision and help those who wish to avail of an equality-based education”.

The school communities concerned have expressed deep shock and frustration at the restrictions. Commenting on this, Trim ETNS School Principal Karen Reilly: 

“To say that it is disappointing to have to turn families away from our school is an understatement. In many cases I know how important having an Educate Together education for their children is and it is heart-breaking to have to explain that our classes are full.”

School Principals and Boards are organising public meetings, reaching out to local politicians and taking their campaigns to the media and online using the hashtag #LetOurSchoolsGrow.

All five schools opened under the Government ‘divestment’ scheme to provide more choice for families in a school system dominated by religious-run schools. Educate Together agreed to open these schools on the basis of their long-term viability as full-stream developing schools. Principals and Boards were appointed on the basis of the schools being allowed to develop and grow.  

Educate Together’s records show that at no stage in the establishment of any of the schools did Educate Together agree that they would remain as half-stream schools.

For each school, the Department of Educations’s own (publicly available) reports recommended “Taking account of likely long-term requirements, accommodation options for a full stream of provision should be considered.” The reports are online here and here.

The effect of this policy u-turn shines a light on the State’s ability to address the serious violation of rights of children and parents in Ireland, and it’s commitment to increase the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools in Ireland to 400 by the year 2030.