Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Looney appeals to Archbishop - defer plans to merge Greenhills schools to consult parents, staff and community

Cllr Dermot Looney, Mayor of South Dublin County Council and the only public representative based in the Greenhills area, has called on the Archbishop of Dublin to defer plans to merge three local primary schools, and to take more time to consult with parents, staff and the wider community.

Principals in St Peter’s Boys NS, St Paul’s Junior Girls NS and St Paul’s Senior Girls NS were informed by phone last Friday that the Archdiocese would be closing all three schools and reopening two new schools on the site of St Paul’s this coming September. Parents were informed of this on Monday and there has been considerable anxiety with regard to the speed of the proposed changes and the lack of consultation.

Cllr Looney, a past pupil of St Peter’s, in which he also trained to be a teacher, stated that he and his family have a long involvement in the schools. “My three brothers and two sisters also attended St Peter’s and St Paul’s, while my mother served on both Boards of Management and Parents’ Associations in the schools. I chair the Board of Management of Greenhills College, to where many of the boys from St Peter’s move. As a teacher myself, as well as a local resident, I am deeply familiar with the issues faced by the schools in terms of demographic shifts, changes in parental choice and relationships with other schools locally.”

“No-one who is aware of the history and current status of primary education in the Greenhills area will be particularly surprised with proposals to merge the schools. I am a supporter of co-education and would welcome the long-term security given to children and their parents in Greenhills from a combined approach.”

“However, having spoken with staff and parents from all three schools, I am deeply concerned with the nature of the announcement and with the intention to proceed with a merger in a few months time.”

“I have been informed that parents and staff have had no say in the nature of the amalgamation and were informed by phone call last Friday that the Archdiocese intends pressing ahead with the new schools this September. This runs counter to the inclusive approach which is championed in all three schools and has resulted in significant anger locally. People in Greenhills and nearby areas have a long and proud history with these three schools and such a rushed approach would be disrespectful to the community as a whole.”

“There are a variety of crucial issues on which parents and staff – and in some cases the community at large - should have their say; whether the new school/s are vertical or split into junior and senior, issues of accommodation such as classrooms and toilets, the future of the St Peter’s site, the names of the new school/s, the formation of Boards of Management, etc.”

“In the circumstances, I believe it would be prudent to delay the proposed changes until the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, giving the relevant Boards of Management and the Archdiocese itself the time and space to engage in genuine, binding consultation and planning with parents, staff and the wider community.”

Cllr Looney has written to the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, to the Director of the Diocesan Education Secretariat, Anne McDonagh, and to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn to call for the deferral of the amalgamation plans.