Enrolment restrictions lifted for five Educate Together schools

Schools previously told they would only be able to bring in 13 junior infants this year

The Educate Together schools, in Tramore, Trim, New Ross, Castlebar, and Tuam will now be able offer places to fill full-size classes of 26 children for the coming school year. File photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The Educate Together schools, in Tramore, Trim, New Ross, Castlebar, and Tuam will now be able offer places to fill full-size classes of 26 children for the coming school year. File photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

 

The Department of Education has lifted a restriction it had placed on five multidenominational schools which meant they could only enrol 13 junior infants this September.

The Educate Together schools, in Tramore, Trim, New Ross, Castlebar, and Tuam will now be able offer places to fill full-size classes of 26 children for the coming school year.

All five schools opened under the Government divestment scheme to provide more choice for families in a system dominated by religious-run schools.

The Irish Times highlighed earlier this year how, despite growing demand from parents, the Department of Education advised them to restrict enrolments and only take in a “half stream” – 13 junior infants a year.

Discussions between Educate Together and the department last week ended in broad agreement on a resolution, and arrangements for each individual schools are set out in a letter from the department to the patron body.

In the letter sent on Friday evening, the department says enrolment levels in all five schools “should continue to be managed within the constraints of available accommodation”.

Welcoming the news, Educate Together chief executive Paul Rowe said each school was in an important urban centre in rural Ireland. He went on to say providing choice was essential to regional development as, without balanced provision of education, it was not possible to attract inward investment, returning emigrants or creative industries to these areas.

“Discriminatory restrictions on the five schools are no longer in place and that the department has agreed that they can be facilitated to grow to eight classroom, full-stream schools, as accommodation becomes available.”

There are 81 Educate Together primary schools and nine second-level schools, with four more due to open in the next two years. The schools provide education for more than 25,000 pupils.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on education Thomas Byrne gave a “cautious welcome” to the news that the department would allow the schools expand to normal size. “This is what we called for and advocated for. However, we note that site restrictions are still in place at some of the schools,” said Mr Byrne.

“The 400 new multidenominational schools promised by the Government are nowhere to be seen, despite multiple press releases from the Minister. This situation cannot become the norm – only in exceptional circumstances should a school be allowed to be established in an urban area on a half-stream basis,” he said.