CONCERNS have been voiced that up to 100 children in East Cork could be left without a place in secondary school in September.
The issue was raised in the Dáil by Cork East TD David Stanton who said that while there are pressures in the area each year with regard to school places, he is particularly concerned about the situation this year.
“Every year we have pressures in East Cork with regard to second level school places. Thanks to the work of the departmental officials, the education and training board and the principals of the local schools, it has been resolved every year, but every year it becomes more pressurised and it takes longer,” said Mr Stanton.
He said principals came together earlier in the year and compared notes and lists, but that “from the work I have done on the ground, I am concerned there could be up to 100 students without school places in September unless serious action is taken”.
Mr Stanton said he highlighted the issue with the education minister before Christmas and that the minister had noted the impact of issues such as duplication of applications, school of choice, pupils being unable to get a place in their preferred school, some towns having single-sex schools, and an external draw with people coming from outside of the area on the matter.
“All of these issues have been dealt with by the principals and we still have a situation wherein some schools there are up to 40 students who have not applied to any other school and who are on a waiting list to go to one particular school,” said Mr Stanton.
Responding to the East Cork TD, Minister of State at the Department of Education Josepha Madigan said the department does “not want any child to be without a school place in September, let alone the 100 children the Deputy mentioned”.
Ms Madigan outlined the process of school planning and also said the department has also been engaging with patron bodies in East Cork to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming year which may necessitate action.
“I understand this process is nearing completion and the schools in the area will be in a position to offer additional places in the coming weeks.”
Ms Madigan noted that it is also open to patrons of schools to submit applications for additional interim accommodation to the department for consideration should this be required.
However, Mr Stanton said that he was concerned about patrons asking for extra accommodation because there is no compulsion or onus on them to do that.
“If schools are already stretched to the limit and do not have space, they will be slow to do that. We must also consider health and safety requirements. If a school is already creaking under the number of students it has and cannot take any more physically, it is unsafe and unfair to shoehorn more students in there for want of a better way of putting it,” he said.
Ms Madigan said she would be taking the issue back to the education minister and “ensure that every child in East Cork will have a secondary school place in September.”