Parents in Swords call for Bruton to intervene over school waiting lists

One father says holding his daughter back from starting school for a year "may be the only viable option"

Parents in Swords call for Bruton to intervene over school waiting lists

Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Parents in Swords, Co Dublin are calling for ministerial intervention amid a shortage of school places in the area.

The Irish Times reports that more than 100 children in River Valley are ready to start school in September - but as yet have no school to go to.

Four local primary schools all have lengthy waiting lists, while schools in the greater Swords area are also full.

Amid a 'stand-off' with the Department of Education, parents affected are now calling for Education Minister Richard Bruton and other authorities to intervene and help their children.

Ashley Gill is the father of Sadie - one of the children on the waiting list for Holy Family primary school. He spoke to Pat Kenny about their current situation.

He explained that Sadie is on a waiting list of 107 children.

"The response from the Department - in previous years and this year - is that Swords will meet the need of parents in respect of schools places. But I think they don't understand what that need means to individual families like my own.

"[Swords & Fingal] is one of the fastest, if not the fastest growing, areas in the country. Therefore to try and get from one side of Swords to the other is not as easy as pie. Unfortunately you have to deal with the massive sprawl of housing estate that Swords produces."

"It's an annual issue"

Ashley told Pat that two schools have potential places places for Sadie - but both would require dealing with the traffic in Swords village.

He suggested that holding Sadie back a year may be the only viable option on 'health and safety grounds'.

"If we can't get Sadie into the Holy Family School - given our personal circumstances of both working full time, a baby coming to us in the summer - than we would actually be forced to put Sadie back in the creche for a year," he said.

In that situation, Sadie would be told to receive any Government funding through the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme. Ashley suggested the loss of that funding means his family could face a bill of around €10,000 for the year.

"Other parents who are working closely with us... they have siblings already in the school," he explained. 

"It's an annual issue. It happens in other areas of Dublin as well, but it's an annual issue in Swords. We just don't see any contingency plans to deal with the peak numbers."

Ashley acknowledged that no new school could be completed by this coming September.

However, he argued: "We're sensible enough to know that no school will be provided in time. But there are other options - like looking into increasing class sizes in the school, or looking for an additional class.

"We're not asking for the Earth here - we just want to ensure that our kids get a fair bite of the cherry here, that's all."

Mark Cunningham, principal of Holy Family, told The Irish Times that both the school and the department are 'acutely aware' of the issues surrounding waiting lists.

"While I have huge sympathy for parents on the waiting list the board of management has a huge responsibility for the health and safety of pupils here," he observed. "The feeling is the school is big enough.”