Students without secondary places to be landed in same City classes

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely

LIMERICK students who did not receive an offer of a secondary level school place under the city’s Common Application System (CAS) are now to be placed in additional classes in Thomond Community College and Limerick Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) this September.

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely, who hit out during a recent Council meeting that principals in some Limerick City secondary schools are to blame for 26 children being left without a place for the coming academic year, has said she is not impressed with the move.

Putting these students into the one class in Thomond Community College and another in Limerick ETSS, Cllr Kiely believes, is not the answer and does nothing to address the real issue.

“To say I am angry is an understatement,” she said.

“We have been pushed from pillar to post. We have been unable to get anyone to answer calls or  emails. The children involved are being treated appallingly by the adults who cherry pick from outside of Limerick.”

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“Some days I wonder why we bother trying to get change for the betterment of our city when we just get dismissed. It’s so sad.

“How dare they treat children like a commodity. This is no reflection on Thomond College as they were told by the Department of Education they must do this.”

Cllr Kiely moved at the February meeting of the Metropolitan District that the Council 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 has called for Education Minister Norma Foley to intervene in the current situation where over 26 Limerick children were left with no secondary school place.

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

Cllr Kiely suggested anecdotal evidence at last month’s Metropolitan meeting that school places are being offered to students from Clare and Tipperary because they were “great hurlers”, “good rugby players”, or “excellent hockey players”.

She went onto say that admission policies are a stumbling block and give protection to some schools who choose to use it as a weapon 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.”

In response, a Department of Education spokesperson said there is a strong pipeline of projects being delivered across schools in the Limerick City area, and these are delivering significant additional capacity to meet the needs of students at post-primary level, and students with special educational needs.

“This includes two newly established 1,000-pupil post primary schools  buildings, for Mungret Community College and Limerick Educate Together Secondary School, both of which are currently at construction. New school buildings providing additional capacity are also planned or in train at Laurel Hill Secondary School, Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ, Ardscoil Mhuire, and Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh, while there are extensions planned at Coláiste Mhichil and Castletroy College,” they explained.

Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the Department said that the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may be provided through utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools, extending the capacity of a school or schools, or provision of a new school or schools.

“In relation to the situation in Limerick City, the Department has been working closely with Limerick Education Centre and school patrons in the area and is aware of the evolving situation with respect to first year places in Limerick for September 2023, including the additional places that were being made available across schools in the city to address the school place needs.

“Following consultation, the original capacity of the post-primary schools in Limerick City has risen significantly, with 11 of the schools already having increased their available first year places, giving an additional capacity of over 160 places.

“In addition, both Thomond Community College and Limerick Educate Together Secondary School have recently agreed to take an additional class group each.  This will increase available capacity by over fifty first year places and these will be coming on stream imminently.

“It is expected that the increased provision will meet the post-primary school place requirements in Limerick City for the 2023/24 school year. However, the Department will continue to monitor the situation,” the spokesperson concluded.