Aravon `not like a normal school'

 

Aravon School in Co Wicklow is "quite West Brit and quite old-fashioned", according to a past pupil. The oldest preparatory school in the State, its students play cricket and hockey rather than hurling and Gaelic football.

Past pupils are called Old Aravonians and receive a regular news sheet. They include singer Chris de Burgh, whose children also attend the school, Ms Vicky Smurfit, daughter of Mr Dermot Smurfit and Ms Caroline Smurfit, and the Fine Gael TD, Mr Ivan Yates.

Located in Old Conna House in Rathmichael, Co Wicklow, the school has 180 pupils, mostly boarders. It costs £1,897 a term for tuition and boarding.

There is a sliding fee scale for different forms, ranging from £383 a term for junior infant day pupils to £869 for day pupils in forms three to six.

One past pupil who boarded at Aravon describes it as cosy and old-fashioned. "It was like a home away from home. It was more like a family house than anything else. The standard of education was brilliant and there was a nice atmosphere there.

"It was quite West Brit and quite old-fashioned . . . it was not like a normal school," she said.

Aravon School was founded in 1860, and was located until the early 1980s at Novara Road in Bray (Aravon is Novara spelt backwards). Its present premises is a Victorian building on a hillside in wooded grounds with a spectacular view of the sea.

The school is well equipped, with a small outdoor swimming pool and an all-weather pitch which is also used by pupils from nearby St Gerard's Secondary School.

Aravon was set up to prepare middle-class Protestant boys for English public schools. Many pupils from Aravon now go on to St Columba's, Rathfarnham; King's Hospital, Palmerstown; Wesley College, Dundrum; and St Gerard's, Bray.

Mr de Burgh is one of the school's largest benefactors. It is believed that he contributed £1 million to a three-phase development which is now under way. He has also performed at fund-raising events for the school.

Mrs Patricia O'Malley, who lives in an apartment in the school with her family, wept yesterday after she failed in her High Court attempt to save her job. "I am very disappointed, but we will go on," she said.

Her solicitor, Mr Michael Kennedy, said his client and her family would have to move out of their apartment following yesterday's outcome. He said she intended to continue with her legal action.

A full High Court hearing against her dismissal is due next year.