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Appeal to minister over secondary places

AN ENNIS principal has appealed to the education minister for a speedy conclusion to talks on the system of allocation of secondary school places in Ennis.
In recent years, there has been an unprecedented demand, with some schools receiving more than twice as many applications as available places.
As Minister Norma Foley visited Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg this week, Príomhoide Dónal Ó hAiniféin availed of the opportunity to highlight the issue.
He said the stress of trying to secure a place gave the “wrong impression” of secondary school as students were making a key transition out of primary education.
Referring to an ongoing consultation process, which was developed in response to the controversy, Mr Ó hAiniféin expressed the hope that it might soon be brought to a successful conclusion by the autumn.
“For children in sixth class, it gives the totally wrong impression,” he said.
“I’m certain the secondary schools will benefit from the positivity that will come from this, and that the children’s first taste of second-level school will be a positive letter from their school stating that they have a place for the following September.”
Addressing the minister, Mr Ó hAiniféin paid tribute to the work of those involved in the consultation, led by former chief inspector Eamon Stack.
“We’re really thankful for all of the wonderful work that they’re doing and we’re hoping that we’ll have a new, unified process in the autumn available to parents,” he said.
“That would be fantastic progress for all of the pupils of next year’s sixth class. We’re very pleased about that. Le cúnamh Dé, we’ll get that over the line in the coming months.
“I want to congratulate the patrons of the schools for being so active and the principals, who are extremely busy, as I know, at second level this time of the year, for their time and commitment to that process, so that the children of Ennis will benefit from a fairer, more unified and transparent process in the future and that children will not be left without places while their friends have multiple places.”
To increase the availability of secondary school places in the county town, Mr Ó hAiniféin cited the potential of the development of an independent all-Irish secondary school.
He expressed the hope that Gaelcholáiste an Chláir might become independent, under the patronage of LCETB, giving it access to more resources and capacity to expand its intake.
“That has the potential to grow to a 400 or 500-pupil school if it is granted independence,” he said.
“There is an application currently before the Department from the LCETB, which is patron of the school, with a view to obtaining independence for Gaelcholáiste an Chláir.
“At the moment, the total commitment to Irish-medium education, at second level, from the State to County Clare is just one [teaching] post.
“So, Ennis Community College (ECC), out of its own resources, has to ensure that it delivers a full, broad and balanced curriculum up to Junior Cert and Leaving Cert cycle in English and in Irish with just one extra post and that is not a task I would like to have to juggle with, but all the principals, over the years, have done a great job.
“There’s no great capital investment required and because both schools would be under the patronage of the LCETB. I think it’s something that can be managed over the next number of years. We’re looking forward to a positive outcome.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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