Investors hope Brexit will fuel demand for international school

School in Leopardstown targeted at children of mobile executives stationed in Dublin

State officials in the IDA and elsewhere have been working hard to tempt London-based banks to move operations to Dublin to keep a foothold in the European Union. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

State officials in the IDA and elsewhere have been working hard to tempt London-based banks to move operations to Dublin to keep a foothold in the European Union. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Investors behind a new private school in Dublin hope that uncertainty caused by Brexit will lead to sharp rise in the number of international executives seeking education for their children.

State officials in the IDA and elsewhere have been working hard behind the scenes to tempt London-based banks to move operations to Dublin to keep a foothold in the European Union.

They hope the establishment of a school teaching the international baccalaureate will help convince senior executives to move to Ireland and bring their families with them.

Unlike most European capitals, Dublin has not had an international school geared towards the children of mobile executives. The plan to open an international school in Leopardstown from September of next year is a joint venture by businessman Barry O’Callaghan and Nord Anglia Education, a Hong Kong-based education firm.

Mr O’Callaghan purchased a €20 million office block formerly used by Microsoft close to the Leopardstown racecourse last year, which is set to be transformed into a primary and secondary school for up to 800 students.

His firm, Rise Global, has received planning permission to change the use of the 8,100sq m building from “office” to “educational” use.

The company is planning to reduce the site’s car park by 200 spaces, and develop an all-weather pitch and playground for the school.

Former minister for education and Labour TD Ruairí Quinn, who has been hired as a consultant by Mr O’Callaghan, has played a key role in building support for the project among planning and State authorities.

Planning permission

Planning records show Mr Quinn lobbied the council chief in advance of Mr O’Callaghan’s application for planning permission, meeting with chief executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council Philomena Poole, and the council’s director of planning, Mary Henchy.

Records also show Minister for Education Richard Bruton and the IDA have backed the new international school.

Mr Bruton met Mr O’Callaghan in mid-November 2016 to discuss the proposed project, lobbying records show.

In a letter to Mr O’Callaghan, Mr Bruton said he was “broadly supportive of the value and role of international schools in addressing the needs you have identified, for providing schooling for children of internationally mobile parents likely to spend only a short number of years in Ireland”.

Department of Education correspondence to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council also said the international school had “a unique offering to children of highly mobile parents . . . who need a transferable education”.

The IDA, which manages the business park, said it has “no objection” to the development of the private school in the former Microsoft offices.

The Sandyford Business District Association, which represents local companies based in the area, including Microsoft, also petitioned the county council in support of the school.

Business attraction

Association chairwoman Sheila Moore wrote to the council’s chief executive in November to say “an international school of this calibre would be a major additional feature and business attraction to the area”.

The school’s development in the business park would “encourage foreign direct investment” and “promote job creation”, Ms Moore said.

“Not only would it assist in decision-making by companies/families considering moving to Ireland, it would also be of great benefit to the diverse range of nationalities living in working in the district.”

Documents prepared by the company Global Rise and submitted as part of the planning application process state there is a “significant existing deficiency in the greater Dublin area (and nationally) in relation to the provision of IB [International Baccalaureate] schools.

“This creates difficulty for highly mobile families whose children need to avail of an international curriculum.”