'I want my daughter's school to stay the way it is': parents voice concerns over possible school merger

John Bohane hears the concerns of parents over the possible amalgamation of three northside Cork schools
'I want my daughter's school to stay the way it is': parents voice concerns over possible school merger

The North Monastery Secondary School, which could be amalgamated with two other northside schools, St Vincent’s and North Presentation.Picture: Maurice O’Mahony

CONCERNED parents have expressed their concerns about a possible amalgamation between three second-level schools on Cork’s northside.

The North Monastery, St Vincent’s, and North Presentation schools are currently in talks to “explore together current and future Catholic educational provision in north Cork city”.

It is understood that these talks could explore if the three schools should merge.

Concerns from parents 

Nicola Bowen’s daughter Katie is a student in one of the ASD units in St Vincent’s. 

She is very concerned about a possible amalgamation.

“My biggest fear is a mixed school because it won’t suit my daughter. Her psychology report states that she is not suited to a mixed school. She is only suited to a small classroom. I am very worried as she is thriving in secondary school,” she said.

Ms Bowen said the parents want their voices heard.

“My biggest concern is the safety of my child. There is a lack of ASD units in Cork. If they make the schools mixed I will have to take my daughter out of that school as it won’t be suitable for her anymore. This will increase pressure on the Department of Education to come up with solutions.”

Ms Bowen said the lack of communication throughout the process has been “shocking”.

“There are 24 girls in the ASD unit. They are thinking about the geographical impact. They are not thinking of each individual child and family. The northside once again is the target and that is very unfair. I want my daughter’s school to stay the way it is. It works perfectly and it is a great school.”

Sonya Lane’s daughter Katie is in her second year at St Vincent’s. 

Ms Lane said Katie is so happy since she started in the all-girls secondary school.

“From day one, it changed her as a person and changed our house. She goes to school happy and comes home happy.”

Ms Lane said the proposed amalgamation “makes no sense”.

“Every child is entitled to an education, but they are also entitled to choose the type of school they want to attend. A same-sex school suits her and it might be taken away. We, as parents, are their voices. We know the impact it will have on them. We will fight it all the way. The 24 kids are entitled to the support and it is being taken from them,” she added.

Meeting to discuss concerns 

Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould. Picture: David Keane.
Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould. Picture: David Keane.

Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould recently held a Zoom meeting in an attempt to provide more information for concerned parents.

Mr Gould said he has written to the board of management of all three schools looking for an update.

“If we have parents and children saying they want to remain in the school they are in, and we have medical professionals saying they need this school environment, we cannot see that taken from them.

“Choice and variety are vital in education but more than that, for some young children the complexities of co-educational relationships will just be too difficult to navigate.

“I am also seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Frank Smith, the independent facilitator overseeing this proposal. I have asked the minister to engage with officials in her department in supporting the parents and children to find the best possible outcome,” he added.

Department response 

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told The Echo: “The decision-making authority for any amalgamation is the patron/trustees of the schools concerned and it is open to any patron to submit proposals to the department for consideration.

“Any proposed change involves extensive negotiations at local level and must be well planned and managed in a manner that accommodates the interests of students, parents, teachers, local communities, and contributes to an inclusive education system.

“The department has received no formal proposal from the patron/trustees of North Monastery Secondary School, North Presentation Secondary School, or St Vincent’s Secondary School.”

A spokesperson on behalf of the three secondary school patrons told The Echo: “North Monastery, St Vincent’s, and North Presentation are an integral part of a deeply valued and rich historical tradition maintained and supported by local communities over the years.

“In appreciation of the rapidly changing educational landscape and the significant service the schools are providing, the three patrons have agreed that it is an opportune time, in collaboration with each of the school communities, to explore together current and future Catholic educational provision in north Cork city.

“A consultation process is now commencing which will seek to gather the perspectives of boards of management, staff, students, and parents.

“We hope to capture the joys, concerns, hopes, and anxieties of all which will inform a vision for Catholic secondary education in North Cork city and serve the community for decades to come. This process will be guided by an independent facilitator, Mr Frank Smith.”

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