Educate Together Blog
Statement on 2016 Second-level Process
- 27 Apr 2016
On foot of yesterday’s announcement of the commencement of the process for new second-level schools, we at Educate Together would like to clarify how these Department of Education and Skills (DES) processes are decided upon and how they work.
The requirement for a new school is decided by the DES based on their analysis of demographic growth and the resultant need for school places. Yesterday the acting Minister Jan O’Sullivan TD stated that ‘parental demand is one of the key considerations in deciding on the patronage’. This is where the patronage process comes in - because there is a variety of school patrons in Ireland, a patron must be chosen by the Minister and parental demand is just one of the determinants. This is why Educate Together seeks Expressions of Interest from parents in these areas.
Educate Together is severely under-resourced. In addition to attempting to provide choice to parents and children at primary level, it is now opening second-level schools. This is a response to significant and growing demand. Many parents whose children have been in Educate Together national schools want them to continue to enjoy that ethos at second-level. Many parents whose children did not attend Educate Together national schools also want them to experience the Educate Together ethos at second-level too. This is testament to the popularity and efficacy of the Educate Together model and the vision of the almost 1,200 teachers, principals and school communities that have built the reputation of Educate Together. The growth in the network has not been reflected in the growth of the national office where resources are very limited.
This situation leaves the national office in the difficult position of having to funnel resources into areas that have the most chance of requiring a new school and, as stated above, this is determined by the DES. The national office completely sympathises with the frustrated parents of Galway, Cork, Kildare and many other areas that want Educate Together primary and second-level schools.
Parental involvement is one of the cornerstones of Educate Together and our schools are established in collaboration with parents and the local community. We receive many enquiries regarding the setting up of start-up groups and, while we are more than happy to do what we can to support these groups, it is virtually impossible to offer all of them the level of support that we would like to provide. Many groups continue their campaigns nevertheless, lobbying politicians, advocating for the model and proving demand for the schools that they believe are best for their children. We do not want to discourage any of these parents because the work they do is extremely valuable and is becoming increasingly noticed by the media, politicians and other stakeholders. We continue to advocate for schools in areas where demographic growth is not expected, but unfortunately Educate Together has limited influence on government policy which is to only establish new schools where there is demographic growth and a lack of school places is anticipated.