‘Absolute crisis’ for Swords school places
‘AN absolute crisis in the south of Swords’ is how one councillor summed up the limbo dozens of parents have been left in as they face into the new school year in September without a primary school place for their child.
Schools in the River Valley area of Swords in particular are hugely oversubscribed and there more than 60 children have failed to gain places in the local school but 27 of them are in particular difficulty, left which children who cannot go to the lcoal school and are too old to avail of another free year of early child care education under the ECCE scheme.
Addressing that group in particular, Cllr Philip Lynam proposed a practical solution to the problem, while the much wider issue of providing more school places in the area is addressed.
He suggested that those families caught in this childchare limbo, where they could be facing bills of more than €1,000 per month in private childcare in September, be given an extra free year of early childcare education.
Councillors were angry at the Department of Education’s lack of response to various motions and emergency motions on the crisis in recent months, a lack of response that the chairman of the Swords/Balbriggan Area Committee, Cllr Tony Murphy (IA) called ‘disrespectful’.
After advice from local councillors, Cllr Lynam addressed his new motion on the issue not to the Department of Education but the Minsiter for Children, Katherine Zappone who has responsibility for the ECCE scheme.
Cllr Lynam explained the problems facing this group of 27 who will pay anything up to €12,000 for childcare as a result which he said was ‘a lot of money for someone with a family and who is trying to pay a mortgage’.
He said the crisis would also have a longer-term social impact on the children themselves who will start primary school a year later than planned.
Cllr Eugene Coppinger backed the motion and went through a detailed history of the crisis as he listed the number of times the Department of Education had failed to respond to appeals from the area committee.
He said some families were facing large childcare bills while others had to split their children up between two schools. He said the situation was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ and we would see a repeat of it next year if nothing was done.
Cllr Duncan Smith (Lab) agreed. He called the situation an ‘absolute crisis in the south of Swords’ and said this kind of ‘critical’ situation had been seen for at least the last four years and would happen again.
Cllr Joe Newman (NP) said that greater care had to be taken to make sure there were sufficient school places in a given area to cope with its growth while Cllr Anne Devitt said this was the responsibility of the Department of Education and not the council but the council had stepped in to help provide school sites with considerable success in recent years.
Cllr Devitt said River Valley was a ‘special case’ and one that should be argued before the Minister for Children to secure that extra year of early childcare education for the affected families.