On Friday 22 01 2016 there was a meeting in the South Court Hotel, Raheen, Limerick, about the process of choosing what group will be Patron of the Second-level school in Mungret, due to be open for pupils in 2017.
Jan O’Sullivan T.D. Minister for Education and Skills described the process to decide who will be the Patron, and answered questions about this from the people who filled one of the large conference rooms in the hotel.
The meeting was NOT about hearing people’s choice about which patron group they want, but about telling us about the process.
Department of Education’s process to choose a Patron for a new Second-level school
The Department will choose a group of people who will be independent from them. Just how to choose them, and which sort of people, was not clear.
Collecting the views of parents is up to a group that wants to apply to be the patron, and so is the method of receiving parents’ views. They should check parents by the electoral register.
The aspiring patron group or organisation would put its case to the independent deciding group near the end of 2016. Some people said this might not let the school be ready to take children in September 2017, and the minister said she would see about making this nearer the middle of 2017.
The new school would be part of the common application system for secondary schools in the Limerick area, and so the parents whose views are to be sought are all parents in this area.
A person attached to Educate Together (ET) spoke, and said that they will hold a public meeting at the South Court Hotel on Thursday 04 02 2016 at 20:00, as their process of receiving the views of parents. They distributed a leaflet about this, which says to go to Limerick Educate Together Second Level and fill an Expression of Interest form.
A person connected to the Eduation and Training Board for Limerick and Clare (ETB; previously called Vocational Education Committee, VEC) said they collect parent’s views by visiting schools in turn. They have already done one visit.
The applicants to be patron are to tell the independent deciding group their model of how they will operate the school, with an ethos, admission policy, and other features; and the parents’ views that they obtained. It was not clear that there is a mechanism to ensure that this admission policy will be identical to the one they told to the parents.
The Department of Education and Skills is already negotiating with Limerick City and County Council about the roads and other services to enable the school to be built and to operate.
Parents’ comments on the process to choose a Patron for a new Second-level school
About 10 or more people present commented on the procedure taking the views of parents in the whole Limerick second-level application system. Several of these mentioned children travelling long distances to schools outside their own area, and if the new school is not what a parent or pupil in the south-west suburbs of Limerick would prefer, many children will still be travelling far. The minister did not offer to change this rule.
While there is a limit to the money an applicant to be Patron may spend in taking parents’ views (on the screen at the meeting a limit of €300 was shown) the meeting did not hear of any monitoring of the money they spend. The chosen patron must pay a €50,000 maximum contribution to the intitial construction or fitting of the school.
At least 10 parents said that their child is at an Educate Together primary school, and they have no choice for second-level school when the child reaches that age. Near the end of the meeting a parent said that schools with Roman Catholic patrons accept children of all religions and races, and the community of such schools is not full of racists. The minister’s next reply was that the meeting is to give information; and that one of the criteria in deciding which group will be patron of the new school is how big will be the diversity of second-level school patrons after the decision.