Case Study: Search for a school place started before Avery (2) was born

Athiest parents would prefer an Educate Together school but fear catchment ruling

Nicole and Malcolm Tyrrell began downloading application forms for primary schools for their daughter, Avery (2), several weeks before she was born.

Both atheists, they would not be having her baptised and they knew this would limit her access to schools.

"I was brought up Catholic and Malcolm Church of Ireland. Neither of us has been religious in any way since our teens though," says Nicole. "To have Avery baptised . . . would almost be like asking Muslim parents to have their daughter baptised. It would be completely hypocritical."

Avery will need a school place in September 2018.


"Our preference is for Educate Together. Just after Avery was born I applied for the Educate Together schools at Griffith Barracks, Ranelagh and Rathfarnham, and then for Canal Way and Firhouse."

No guarantee

All of these are hugely over-subscribed so despite the fact Nicole applied in good time, there is no guarantee Avery will get a place, she says. Griffith Barracks ETNS operates a siblings-first policy and then offers places by lottery.

Firhouse ETNS, which opened in 2013, is under pressure from the Department of Education to prioritise children from its catchment area and Avery lives outside it, so her chances there are slim.

Nicole feels it is “not fair” that parents who want the ET ethos for their children, but live outside the catchment area of an ET school, may have less chance of getting a place than religious parents in the school’s area.

Catchment area

“I don’t think ET schools should have to apply a ‘catchment area’ priority as long as Catholic schools don’t have to. At the moment when a Catholic school is oversubscribed they can make sure all their places go to Catholics, while ET schools have to offer places to children who might just as easily get a place in a Catholic school.”

She is one of more than 800 parents in the Dublin 6 area who are seeking a new ET national school in the area.

“It’s upsetting and I am worried. Ideally there would be no religion in schools. Until then, ideally, there should be an ET school opened in every area where the schools are oversubscribed. Fingers crossed the Department of Education listens to parents in this area.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times