The campaign to establish a Second-level School in Claregalway has made significant progress since it began earlier this year. A comprehensive website, www.claregalwaynewschool.com, set up by the parents committee contains details of the campaign and progress to date, copies of documents and reports prepared by the committee, and other information.
The initiative has developed from the parent’s response to the exclusion of children from the Claregalway area by second-level schools in Galway, Athenry and Oranmore. The campaign has been based on comprehensive analysis of the Dept of Education data for the area and has built on the Dept’s own recommendations for a 600-pupil school for Claregalway. The committee has reinforced the data by already collecting commitments from parents of over 570 current primary school children even before the schools closed last June. These parents confirmed their preference for sending their children to a school in Claregalway. When the primary schools open again next week, the committee are expecting many more confirmations from other parents.
The committee are seeking the opening of the new school in interim accommodation in September 2011. The Co Galway VEC has been selected as the parent’s choice for school patron, and has been very supportive and helpful. Several suitable options for interim school accommodation have been identified. Over 70 children are already signed up for 1st year in 2011, and the committee expects that this will grow to over 90 in the next few weeks. Increasing numbers are also signing up for the following years.
Members of the committee Michael Hannon, Pat Coen, Ronan Staunton and Paddy Tobin, with Sean Duffy (Education Officer, Co Galway VEC) met with the Tánaiste Mary Coughlan (Minister for Education & Skills) and Tony Dalton (Principal Officer, Planning & Building Unit, Dept of Education & Skills) on the afternoon of July 20th. The meeting was also attended by Frank Fahey TD, Minister Eamon Ó Cuív, Noel Grealish TD, Padraic McCormack TD, and Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames. Apologies and expressions of support were received from Michael D Higgins TD and Senator Niall Ó Brolchain.
The response at the meeting with the Tánaiste was very positive and the presentation of the case for the new school was well received. An account of the meeting is available on the website www.claregalwaynewschool.com. Furthermore, feedback from the Tánaiste to enquires since the meeting have been very positive. The officials in the Dept have also expressed their admiration for the research completed by the committee and acknowledged that this work has significantly advanced the case. The Dept officials are currently reviewing the case and will be contacting the committee in September to discuss the next steps in the process.
At this stage the parents committee are very encouraged by the progress and response they have received. No objections or obstacles have been raised by the Dept thus far, and the advice and support of all the public representatives, particularly Frank Fahey, Noel Grealish and Eamon O’Cuiv has helped the parents build a very strong case. The case is solidly underpinned by the school numbers, and geographic, transport, community, environmental and economic arguments. However, notwithstanding all these benefits, the quality of life and quality of educational experience for their children is the primary motivator for many hundreds of parents in the Claregalway area. Thus, the committee will be redoubling their efforts to gather support and more commitments from interested parents in the few weeks ahead of their next meeting with the Dept.