The Department of Education’s failure to plan for population growth and local demand has resulted in a deepening secondary school enrolment crisis for parents and students, according to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore.
Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s children’s spokesperson, said:
“The shortage of second level places is a major issue in my Wicklow constituency, but also in counties such as Dublin, Kildare, Galway and Cork.
“Parents and children are at their wits’ end, having so far failed to secure a first-year place in their local secondary school.
“This should be a happy time for pupils as they approach their final year of primary school and look forward to the next chapter in their educational journey. Instead, they are left feeling anxious and upset due to the uncertainty of their situation as they scramble to secure a school place before the start of the academic year in September.
“Many families now face the prospect of long commutes to and from schools outside their areas. However, in extreme cases, it is feared that some children may have to rely on a home tuition grant scheme.
“It is unconscionable that families should be put in this invidious position. Schools are not just places of learning – they are also vital social outlets, where students forge new friendships and get to participate in sports and other recreational activities. Having to stay at home could have a detrimental impact on a young person’s development and mental health.
“At the heart of this avoidable crisis is a failure by the Government to plan ahead and take into account demographic changes in growing communities.
“School principals have been warning about this looming crisis for months. The Department of Education only needs to look at the numbers coming up through fifth and sixth classes in primary schools to see what projected demand will be for first-year places.
“The Minister for Education needs to immediately outline how she plans to address the appalling situation faced by parents and students around the country – not just for the next academic term, but for the years ahead.”
February 6, 2024