Limerick school principals accused of manipulating applications system

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely

PRINCIPALS in some Limerick City secondary schools are to blame for 26 children being left without a place for the coming academic year as a result of ‘cherry picking’ students.

That’s according to Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely, who had a motion before this Monday’s Metropolitan District council meeting calling for change.

Cllr Kiely proposed that the local authority write to the Minister for Education and the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals to ask that the Common Application System be amended to ensure that no child is left without a school place next year.

She also called for Education Minister Norma Foley to intervene in the current situation where over 26 Limerick children have no school place.

The City East representative pointed the blame directly at school principals. The Common Application System, she claimed, was set up to stop schools cherry picking who they perceive to be the ‘best students’.

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Cllr Kiely said there was anecdotal evidence that school places are being offered to students from Clare and Tipperary because they were “great hurlers”, “good rugby players”, or “excellent hockey players”.

Cllr Kiely went onto say that admission policies are a stumbling block and give protection to some schools who choose to use it as a means to prevent access to their school.

“Every year a few schools are instructed to step up and take extra students. This only masks the problem and allows the adults in the situation to continue with their bad behaviour.”

Cllr Kiely also claimed that the system is being manipulated by a number of schools.

“Why do we have 26 children with no places, if the system was set up to stop this? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the system is being manipulated by a few schools.

“It should be as simple as this – we have X number of students in sixth class in schools in Limerick and we need to provide Y number of places for the coming year.

“Then if a school wants to take more students from outside of Limerick, is a matter for them.

Cllr Michael Sheahan (FG), a former Deputy Principal at Monaleen National School, empathised with the sentiments of Cllr Kiely’s motion. He agreed that there are plenty of school places, and suggested that schools now engage with the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board and take “collective responsibility”.

Fianna Fáil councillor Catherine Slattery said no child should be made feel “isolated” by being left without a school. She hit out at the suggestion of an extra class being put on in one school to accommodate the 26 currently without places.

Fianna Fáil councillor James Collins said that no child should ever have to receive 11 rejection letters on the one morning.

”This is a terrible message to send out to anybody,” he declared.