Don O’Leary vows Life Centre will fight on after meeting with minister

Education minister Norma Foley spent two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday evening meeting with students, staff, and parents.
Don O’Leary vows Life Centre will fight on after meeting with minister

Minister of Education Norma Foley with Don O'Leary at the Cork Life Centre. Picture: Donal O'Keeffe

THE director of Cork Life Centre has vowed that staff and students of the northside education facility will “fight on”, following a lengthy meeting with Education Minister Norma Foley.

Ms Foley spent two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday evening meeting with students, staff, and parents.

After the meeting, Ms Foley told The Echo her visit had been “very productive”, and she acknowledged the centre’s work.

The Life Centre every year offers one-to-one tuition, up to Leaving Certificate level, to 55 students who have not thrived in the mainstream education system. The centre has, for several years, been in conflict with the Department of Education over funding, and in recent months a departmental review had caused considerable unrest in the Life Centre.

The centre’s director, Don O’Leary, had stated that he believed the recommendations of the Department of Education’s review of out-of-school education provision would, if implemented, mean “the end of the Life Centre”.

Mr O’Leary alleged the report contained several factual inaccuracies.

Regarding the future of the Life Centre in the context of the review, Ms Foley said a working group would be established to look into “all the potential that is there”, and said she wanted to be clear there is a place in education for the service provided by the Life Centre.

“I come from an education background, I know that no one type of education is suitable to every young person, so we need to find mechanisms going forward that will support every student to have the maximum potential and possibility realised in life,” Ms Foley said.

Asked about discussions on pay for teachers at the centre, she said ensuring that “centres of this nature are sustainable going forward” was “a key objective”.

Ms Foley said she believed the meeting had been very positive, and she was hopeful that solutions could be found to ensure the long-term sustainability of the centre.

Mr O’Leary told The Echo he was grateful to the minister for her visit and for listening to the concerns of students and staff, and for promising that any errors in the review could be addressed. “However, nothing has changed, we’ve been given no commitments, no guarantees, and I’m still struggling to hold onto staff,” Mr O’Leary said.

“We fight on, we fight on until we can guarantee the future of the Life Centre for our young people.”

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