'I'll do anything to fight for my school': Students and parents come out in force to save Northside Cork school

Protestors joined the movement in their droves following approval from the Department of Education to amalgamate St Vincent’s with the North Presentation Secondary School in Farranree
'I'll do anything to fight for my school': Students and parents come out in force to save Northside Cork school

ictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Eilish Hickey and Laila Abdelnapy. Picture Denis Boyle

"THIS is my second home and I’ll do anything to fight for it." 

Those were the words of a concerned student at a protest against the amalgamation of two schools on the Northside.

A combination of parents, children and students staged a protest on Saturday that saw them march from the St Vincent's Secondary School on St Mary’s Road to Grand Parade. Protestors joined the movement in their droves following approval from the Department of Education to amalgamate St Vincent’s with the North Presentation Secondary School in Farranree.

The proposals were put forward by the Catholic Education Irish Schools' Trust (CEIST) and the Religious Sisters of Charity and will result in the facility moving forward as a co-educational school. Plans for the amalgamation will get underway soon, as schools prepare for a move to the current site of the North Presentation School.

However, both parents and children say they won’t be giving up without a fight.

Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Mia Doyle, Elphie Collins and Casey O'Conner. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Mia Doyle, Elphie Collins and Casey O'Conner. Picture Denis Boyle

Éilish Hickey, who is a student of the Lir hub which supports students on the autistic spectrum to reach their full potential, said there are mounting concerns.

“I hope this shows what we are willing to do in order for the school to stay as it is. This is my second home and I’ll do anything to fight for it.” 

She highlighted the issues facing students from the Lir Hub in St Vincent's.

“We weren’t exactly given the opportunity to process the information. It literally sprung up from out of nowhere.”

 Éilish said that it’s difficult to focus on anything else.

“It’s just a nagging voice at the back of your head,” she explained. You are trying to focus and study for tests but at the same time you are wondering “will this be the last time this ever happens here?” 

"Sometimes it can cause you to cry if you think about it too much. The people who came here are St Vincent’s girls. They are trying to take that away when it is something that is part of us.” 

Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Cslr Tony Fitzgerald and Cllrs John Sheehan with students Emily O'Leary, Saoirse O'Sullivan and Lydia Sheehan. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Cslr Tony Fitzgerald and Cllrs John Sheehan with students Emily O'Leary, Saoirse O'Sullivan and Lydia Sheehan. Picture Denis Boyle

Tracey Doyle from Glenville, whose daughter Mia is in the Lir Hib at St Vincent’s reiterated the painful impact the decision is having on parents and children alike.

Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Stacey Bermingham and Mary Stafford both past pupils and parents with John hayes whose grandaughter attends the school. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Stacey Bermingham and Mary Stafford both past pupils and parents with John hayes whose grandaughter attends the school. Picture Denis Boyle

“The children are our future. Without the children we don’t have a future,” she said. 

“It’s as simple as that, but we won’t be giving up without a fight.” 

Tracey said “The Lir hub gets the most out of every child. We want to know why this is happening. We want answers.”

 Cork North Central Solidarity TD Mick Barry, also turned up to show his support.

Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Mick Barry TD. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at a Save St Vincent's secondary school rally at the South Mall Cork city was Mick Barry TD. Picture Denis Boyle

“When parents, teachers and students are part of a school community no change should ever be made to arrangements without their consent. Yet, that is precisely what is happening now both at St Vincent's and North Pres. The decision to shut the schools and establish an amalgamated school in Farranree is not a democratic decision.” 

A group of students pictured after marching from St Vincent's secondary school rally to the South Mall. Picture Denis Boyle
A group of students pictured after marching from St Vincent's secondary school rally to the South Mall. Picture Denis Boyle

Cork City North west Councillor Damian Boylan (Fine Gael), who was in attendance, is calling for plans to be halted.

“My thoughts are very simple,” he said. 

“This is a very special school. Most people care deeply about it. There are children in here whose education will be affected if this happens at the rate people want it to happen. At the moment the process is happening too quickly. It needs to be paused. 

"It needs to be stopped. Level heads need to take over. They need to come up with a better plan because this plan is untenable.”

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said he feels very strongly about the decision, given his personal connection with the school.

“I believe St Vincent’s should be kept open and I have written to the trustees and Board of Management looking for a meeting to discuss this,” 

Deputy Gould said. 

“As the parent of a child who is in first year in this school, I believe that it was wrong of the Trustees and the Board of Management not to have informed students and parents of this before enrolling their children. 

"I also support North Presentation Secondary School on their decision to become co-educational. This is an excellent school and I believe it is possible for both schols to remain open separately.” 

He described the process as flawed.

“It is extremely disappointing that there was no consultation with the students, the parents and the staff. I feel this is completely wrong and is a flawed process which is being rushed through. I call on the Minister for Education to engage with the trustees of St Vincent’s Secondary School in relation to their proposed amalgamation and instruct them to reverse the decision taken pending consultation with relevant stakeholders. 

"A proper consultation process should have taken place with all the stakeholders. The voices of the students,parents,teachers and staff of both schools should have been listened to and their opinions taken on board in reaching this decision.”

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