Dáil Éireann - Volume 566 - 13 May, 2003
Written Answers. - School Closures.
Mr. Hogan Mr. Hogan
276. Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons for the decision to close St. Brigid's Convent, Goresbridge, County Kilkenny; if he will review this decision immediately in view of the educational requirements of 129 second level students and the excellent educational opportunity offered to the students of this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12929/03]
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): The future of St. Brigid's secondary school, Goresbridge, has been under review for some time. The school was owned and run by the Brigidine Order as a girls boarding school until 1978. At that time, the nuns withdrew and the school was taken over by a local board of trustees and a local board of management who leased the buildings from the nuns and ran the school as a co-educational voluntary school.
In April 1998 the board of management decided to phase out the operation of the school. The board's decision was strongly resisted locally and a community action group was set up to save the school. In June 1998 the board of management notified the Department that it had reversed its decision to close the school.
Subsequently, in 2001, a group representing the various school interests made a proposal to my Department, in which approval was sought for the implementation of various measures which, it was considered, would result in the development of St. Brigid's as a viable school into the future.
Following a thorough examination of the issues involved, including submissions to retain the school under the trusteeship of the VEC, I have concluded that the major capital investment which would be warranted to sustain a school of this size, could not be justified.
Since 1995 enrolments at the school have remained steady at a figure of approximately 130. The school has a current enrolment of 129 pupils and a long-term projected enrolment of approximately 125 pupils. This is an optimistic assessment in that it assumes full student retention through junior and senior cycles and 75% of all fourth year pupils taking the transition year option, TYO. It is also based on a pattern of enrolment where in excess of 60% of the total first year intake comes from outside the catchment area.
As part of its strategy to increase enrolments, the interest group representing the school, has sought adjustments to existing catchment boundaries and current transport arrangements. Any attempt to alter existing arrangements would be likely to provoke strong opposition from other providers in the area. It could also be argued that this strategy for increasing enrolments could be viewed as verification of the school's non-viability for the future.
Even with the interventions mentioned there would still not be a sufficient base, to justify major refurbishment or, perhaps, a new building. Consequently, my view, is that educational provision should be phased out over a two year period, with final closure in June 2005, and I have advised the owners and trustees in this regard. To facilitate an orderly closure, the school authorities are not accepting a first year intake in September 2003.
In relation to any decision on the closure of a school, my Department's concern is to ensure that there are sufficient pupil places to meet demand in a given area. The alternative choices for pupils who attend St. Brigid's are essentially Borris vocational school and the Presentation de la Salle and vocational school in Bagenalstown. Pupils from the same primary schools that feed into St. Brigid's also attend a range of other schools including Grennan College, Thomastown, Scoil Aireagail, Ballyhale, and various post-primary schools in Kilkenny city, therefore it is to be expected that these would also be alternatives for pupils who would otherwise attend St. Brigid's.
My Department is satisfied that arrangements can be made to facilitate the placement of pupils from St. Brigid's in neighbouring schools as the situation arises. Arrangements are currently being made to accommodate the remaining pupils during the phasing out of the school, through the provision of temporary accommodation.
Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 253.
Dáil Éireann 566 Written Answers. School Closures.