Dail hears of Skerries parents’ anguish as schools place crisis grows

by Sylvia Pownall
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Almost 70 children due to start secondary school in Skerries next September have been told there is no place for them, the Dail heard last week.

The growing schools overcrowding crisis in north Fingal was raised by both Labour TD Brendan Ryan and Sinn Fein’s Louise O’Reilly.

The Dail heard that Skerries Community College, which is already operating over capacity, had 257 applicants but can only take in 180 students in September 2020.

Deputy Ryan said: “As of Monday, there were 68 children on a waiting list. But there is no alternative school in this designated planning area.

“There are many families in Skerries on the waiting list, they are not in the catchment for any other area. What are they to do, where are they to go to?”

Deputy Ryan was informed that the country is divided into 314 school areas and Skerries is one of them.

He said: “There is no evidence of any planning going on. Government plans for new schools for 2019 to 2022 does not include a new second level school for Skerries.”

Deputy O’Reilly said she had been contacted by the parents of one child who said it was “a source of great and ongoing concern” that their son had no place in the local school.

She continued: “They have tried to secure an alternative place in other schools but in Ardgillan in Balbriggan the waiting list is 190-plus, and in St Joseph’s in Rush the waiting list is 70-plus.”

She added: “Another parent says when the first [school places] lottery was done, she got a letter to say her child was seventeenth on the waiting list. He has since moved to seventh, but still they are gravely concerned.”

An online petition calling for an immediate extension to Skerries Community College – which was built as a 900-pupil school, but has an enrolment of 975 – has garnered 1,300 signatures.

It says: “The present environment of overcrowding is not conducive to education. Storage closets and the school hall are being used as makeshift classrooms.”

A public meeting is being planned for early in the New Year and campaigners will invite Education Minister Joe McHugh and council chief executive AnnMarie Farrelly to attend so they can plead their case directly.

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