‘Ab­so­lute cri­sis’ for Swords school places

Fingal Independent - - NEWS -

‘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.

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