Educational apartheid needs to be addressed

Fianna Fáil local election candidate for Limerick City West Geraldine Leddin on the campaign trail earlier this week
Fianna Fáil local election candidate for Limerick City West Geraldine Leddin on the campaign trail earlier this week

LOCAL election candidate for City West, Geraldine Leddin, has called on the Government to intervene directly in the secondary schools admissions crisis in Limerick.

The Fianna Fáil nominee says that many families have been left disappointed after offers for secondary places came out last week.

“Students from Dooradoyle and Raheen who in some cases live only a stones throw from the Crescent Comprehensive are faced with the insane situation where they and hundreds more pupils from all over the city are being bused out to County schools such as Croom and Pallaskenry,” Ms Leddin claimed.

“The situation is at crisis point and as if things weren’t bad enough, now Scoil Carmel on O’Connell Avenue is closing and this isn’t long after the announced closure of the Salesians at Fernbank.

“It is obvious with the closure of Scoil Carmel, that unless the Crescent is expanded or a new school is built in the Dooradoyle/ Raheen/ Mungret area, we are going to continue to have this problem. I am calling on the Government and especially Minister Michael Noonan who lives in the area, to take a hands on role and intervene and resolve this problem once and for all”, she added.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Spokesperson for the Anti Austerity Alliance, Cian Prendiville told the Limerick Post that he feels it makes no sense that some secondary schools should be closed down in Limerick as there is no shortage of young people looking for secondary school places.

“Instead of closing down these schools, every support should be given to them to help make them more viable,” said Mr Prendiville.

“There is a major element of class inequality at play here. While schools in better off parts of Limerick get large contributions form parents, other schools where the parents can’t afford those contributions are disadvantaged. This needs to be reversed, and all schools properly funded,” he declared.

Meanwhile, Principal of Coláiste Chiaráin in Croom, Noel Malone, is hopeful that the new Admissions to Schools Bill will deal with the weak points which have continued to divide and exacerbate the problems in Limerick. Real change, he said, will only happen when the people of Limerick make their position clear and make their voice heard.

“Do we want a truly equal chance for our young people or do we want to continue the current system, which is but a veneer of fairness? Educational apartheid is alive and well in Limerick,” alleged Mr Malone.

The County Limerick teacher said the region has grappled with the whole issue of educational inequality for many years and remains the only area in the country where a common admissions and application system applies.

“The Minister has in fact indicated in the proposed legislation that he intends including the right of the Government to impose a similar system elsewhere. However, it is with some alarm and regret that the Bill asserts that; ‘it is not the intention, in such a scenario, that the schools concerned will be required to apply a common policy. Rather that each school will continue to apply its own policy, in that only the process will have to operate in co-operation with other schools.’

“Amazingly, this is the key element that makes the current system so unfair and in my opinion, unless addressed, will lead to even more closures of schools in the city and a further polarisation of our young people’s chances in life,” said Mr Malone.

He went on to say that he believe the Minister for Education should insist on a common admissions policy across all participant schools, with geographical location as first priority, after brothers or sisters of existing students.

“The centralised procedure has brought about considerable anguish and uncertainty among parents and children. If children do not get their first or second preference school, they may be left with the very last of their preferences as has happened on a number of cases this very year. Ironically, participant schools are given a certain level of protection from any imputation of perpetuating inequality, by using the scheme as a kind of cover. Schools cannot be allowed to continue to operate independently in terms of their admission criteria, and therefore decide their selection criteria with no independent scrutiny,” said Mr Malone.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins has revealed that at least five schools in County Limerick are on course to lose at least one full teaching post in September as a result of the Government’s attack on small schools.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is all part of an agenda to force the amalgamation of smaller schools across the country. I believe that if the Government had its way, some communities in this region will lose their local school entirely,” said Deputy Collins.