No place in East Cork schools for teenager: ‘Sophia has a legal right to be educated’

No place in East Cork schools for teenager: ‘Sophia has a legal right to be educated’
Sophia Stanley with her dad, Gary Ricken, at their home in Cloyne, Co. Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

A Cork father is at a loss what to do next as his 15-year-old daughter who recently moved back to Ireland cannot get a place in any nearby secondary school.

Gary Ricken has labelled the school system in East Cork “outrageous” after he was told that four schools in his catchment area are at full capacity and are unable to offer his daughter a place in transition year.

“Sophia was born in St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork in 2004 but has lived with her mother in Wales since she was three months old,” Gary told The Echo.

“She has a legal right by the Government to be educated in this country. She is currently not attending any school and at 15, legally, she should be.”

Gary and his daughter have always had a good relationship and for a time he even moved to Wales to be closer to her.

Now living in Cloyne, Gary received a phone call from his daughter just over two weeks ago asking if she could move back to Ireland to live with him.

“Of course, I was delighted to have her come over,” he said. “My partner and I told her ‘we will support you in any way we can’ and now two weeks later I can’t get her into a secondary school.”

Sophia Stanley with her dad, Gary Ricken, at their home in Cloyne, Co. Cork.
Sophia Stanley with her dad, Gary Ricken, at their home in Cloyne, Co. Cork.

Thus far, Gary has tried four schools in his catchment area,  all of which have refused his daughter on the grounds that they are at maximum capacity.

Gary, who has a disability, is unable to drive for long periods of time so a commute to a secondary school in the city would be out of the question.

“I also tried Glanmire Community College who have stated that they are also full,” he said. “It wouldn’t be ideal to commute to Glanmire, but I would be prepared to do it if there was a space for Sophia.

“Sophia has been diagnosed with a heart condition too, so I wouldn’t be comfortable with her sitting for a long period of time on a bus into school.”

Gary has made contact with the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, and has been informed that the department is looking into the matter. He has also flagged his concerns with Tusla Education Support Services.

“I need the school refusals in writing for them to get involved but I have called to the schools in person and some have refused to give this to me,” he said.

“Tusla has also suggested homeschooling Sophia, but this would simply not be feasible.

“I have a two-year-old running around pretending he’s Batman half the time, so it would be too chaotic!

“I’m also adamant that Sophia gets the socialisation she needs. She has just moved over from a different country, everything is different for her and I’m just looking to establish a solid routine and for her to make friends in school and get settled. I understand that this isn’t personal and other people are probably experiencing similar issues.

“I have two other daughters who will be looking for secondary schools in the next five years and I am concerned that I will be unable to find one.

“Sophia is very happy in Ireland and if we could just get her into a secondary school somewhere nearby, everything would be perfect.”

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