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Second level school dilemma

THE mother of a seriously ill boy is making a last-ditch attempt to find a second level school place for her eldest son in Ennis following the rejection of her appeal by the Department of Eduction.

Anne Marie O’Donoghue and her husband, Sean, who live on the main Ennis to Ruan road, are at their wits end trying to secure a school place for their 12-year-old son, Cian, while at the same time looking after six-year-old Evan, who is suffering from , a serious kidney disorder. Ironically, a school bus collects his sister from right outside their door to bring her to the all girls Coláiste Muire in Ennis.

Cian is academically bright and loves hurling, and his preference for secondary school is St Flannan’s College in his own catchment area, the school where all of his former Ruan Primary School schoolmates were lucky enough to secure first year places.

“Cian really wants to go to St Flannan’s with all his friends but he can’t get a place. We filled in all the forms last January and have been through lotteries and appeals with no success. His second choice would be Rice College but he didn’t get a place there either,” said mum Anne Marie.

“He doesn’t want to go to Ennis Community College and I can’t bring him to Tulla, Shannon or Gort. My other son, Evan, is seriously ill and has to be medicated throughout each morning. His blood has to be monitored constantly by Temple Street Hospital and our local doctor, and he has had a number of relapses this year. The winter will be the most dangerous time for him, so I can’t put Evan in the car to bring Cian to school. It wouldn’t be fair on him. My daughter already gets the bus to Coláiste Muire in Ennis. It stops at my gate every morning and drops her off in the evening, and while there are buses bringing children to Ennis from outside the catchment area there’s no transport for Cian to one of the other schools,” Anne Marie added.

The Department of Education say, “Under the terms of the post-primary school transport scheme, children are ‘eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. In order to determine a child’s eligibility to their nearest education centre, the family address is requested as part of the Bus Éireann school transport on-line application system,” adding that “the terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.

Following a number of appeals to both schools and the the Department of Education and a Section 29 Appeal hearing with fepartment and school officials in Limerick, where the family’s circumstances were outlined, the appeal was refused and Cian’s parent were told that a place exists for their son in Ennis Community College, or in Tulla, Shannon or Gort second level schools.
The Department of Education say while they cannot comment on individual cases, “an appeals hearing committee cannot set aside the published enrolment policy of a school.”
Like a number of other parents, the O’Donoghue’s are wondering why places in Ennis are being given to children from outside the catchment area ,when there is such an obvious shortage of places for local children.
Cian’s parents had been told that he is on a waiting list for St Flannan’s College and that at the time there were 40 other children in the same position.

“While some of those children have taken up places in other schools, if a place becomes available in St Flannan’s, Cian will go into another lottery with all the other children. We’re at our wits end. We don’t know what to do now with just a week-and-a-half left before school begins,”Anne Marie said.

A further worry for Anne Marie and Sean is that they have been warned that they will be legally responsible if Cian doesn’t attend a school school at the end of the month.

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