THERE is enough demand for an Educate Together school in Shannon, according to the Department of Education’s report on parental preferences on primary school patronage.
In relation to the preferences for patronage in Shannon, compiled after a survey of local parents of pre-school and primary school children, it stated, “234 of the 1,289 preferences stated that they would welcome a wider choice of patronage while 154 stated they would avail of that choice. Of these, 154, there were 37 pre-school children and 117 school-going children. Of these 117, there are 63 in junior infant to second-class while the remainder are in the senior-class group of third class to sixth class. In total, 91 of those who would avail of a change in patronage live within the town, 30 are from within 5km of the town boundary, 11 are from between 5km and 10km while the balance live further than 10km from the town boundary.”
There were 97 first-preferences for Educate Together, 15 for An Foras Pátrúnachta, 10 for the VEC, which is also proposing an English-speaking multi-denominational school and four for the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
In its conclusion section, the report stated there is adequate demand for a national school not under the Church’s patronage. “Given the number of respondents who have stated they would avail of a further choice of patron, it is clear there is a viable demand for change in the area. Exactly how this change could be facilitated would need to be examined further but the reorganisation of the schools within the area could result in it being possible to offer greater choice. It should be noted that any change would not increase the overall number of pupils to be accommodated in the existing school buildings in the area.
“There were expressions representing 81 school-going children that stated they would avail of an English-medium multi-denominational school if that choice was available. That level of support would provide sufficient pupils to immediately fill about three classrooms. There were expressions of parental first-preferences representing 26 pre-school children that stated they would avail of English medium multi-denominational school if that choice was available. The highest number of preferences for change was expressed for Educate Together at 123 total preferences (ie, first and subsequent preferences, of which 91 are school-going and 32 are pre-school children).”
With expressions of interest in an English medium multi-denominational school from the parents of 81 school-going children and 26 pre-school children, it found that the “level of potential pupil intake indicates a long-term projected size of up to one half of a single-stream school (comprising of four classrooms) being required to accommodate such a level of demand in the medium to long term. Detailed examination of the reorganisation of the schools in the town and their possible reconfiguration could result in a building being freed up for a new patron.”
It concluded, “The main patron (Catholic Bishop) should now be asked to consider re-configuration options that would provide accommodation for an Educate Together (English language multi-denominational school) in the area. Taking account of likely long-term requirements, accommodation options for a full stream of provision should be considered.”
The report stated the survey carried out among parents in the Shannon area earlier this year received valid responses representing 1,289 pre-school and primary school children.
It also said enrolments in the town have increased from 1,368 pupils in 2001 to 1,684 in 2011/12 and judging by child benefit data, junior infant enrolments will remain relatively stable for the next four years. At present, there are six schools within Shannon’s boundary and another three within five kilometres o the town. Seven of the nine are Catholic English-speaking schools, which have a combined enrolment of 1,577, or 93%, of the total enrolment. The local Church of Ireland school, St John’s, has around 24 pupils, or two per cent of enrolments. The Gaelscoil has around 83 pupils and the report found there is sufficient provision for the Irish language.