Schools pro­gramme shows that gov­ern­ment can get it right

The Argus - - OPINION -

THIS week the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced an ac­tion plan for ru­ral Ireland.

There wasn’t too much fan­fare in this part of the coun­try and the feel­ing is that the plan will fo­cus on the western seaboard and the mid­lands and places such as Louth which is in the catch­ment of greater Dublin will not have the same pri­or­ity.

The plan is aimed at bring­ing ‘ tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits to peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties’ in up to 600 ru­ral ar­eas of the coun­try.

I hope it is not an­other case of de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion dressed up in new cloth­ing. De­cen­tral­i­sa­tion which of it­self as a sound con­cept, was a dis­as­ter as it tried to give some­thing for vir­tu­ally ev­ery ru­ral town in Ireland and that was be­fore the pres­sure of po­lit­i­cal patronage made the mat­ter worse.

The sim­ple fact is that the fi­nan­cial re­sources avail­able are fi­nite and we can­not do ev­ery­thing in one go, but that is not to say that the plan will be a wasted ef­fort to re­vi­talise ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

De­spite the per­cep­tion oth­er­wise, gov­ern­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tors can be ex- tremely in im­ple­ment­ing plans.

The only proof you need is to take a close look at our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, or more par­tic­u­larly at our schools and their in­fra­struc­ture.

There are many chal­lenges in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, class sizes be­ing amongst the most press­ing, Ju­nior Cer­tifi­cate re­form has been tor­tur­ous and the is­sue of school patronage in a chang­ing Ireland has not been grasped firmly enough.

How­ever by and large our school build­ings are in good shape.

Over the past decade or so sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment has taken place in our pri­mary and sec­ondary school sec­tor.

Just take a vir­tual tour around the town for a sec­ond and you see the won­der­ful new Marist Sec­ondary School, while just across the road Coláiste Rís has had an ex­ten­sion with new can­teen and class­room fa­cil­i­ties.

In Chapel Street the CBS Pri­mary School has had a ma­jor ex­ten­sion, so too has the re­spec­tive parts of St Malachy’s In­fants, Girls and Boys Schools.

An ex­ten­sion of St Joseph’s Na­tional School opened late last year vir­tu­ally dou­bled the size of the pre­vi­ous school, while con­struc­tion work has com­menced on the new cam­pus for Co­laisti Lú and Chu Chu­lainn across from the Marshes Shop­ping Cen­tre.

Over the last num­ber of months I have vis­ited var­i­ous schools around the town and county, such as the rel­a­tively new St Fran­cis NS in Black­rock, Oliver Plun­ketts NS also in the sea­side vil­lage, St Peter’s NS in Dromiskin, Monastery Boys NS in Ardee and Ardaghy NS in Omeath. All fine, mod­ern, cheer­ful school build­ings, long gone is the in­sti­tu­tional feel from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

The cap­i­tal pro­gramme may have been re­quired with bulging school go­ing pop­u­la­tions but the work has been car­ried out and con­tin­ues.

The big­gest pri­or­ity and chal­lenge for the present gov­ern­ment is pro­vid­ing houses in the cur­rent cri­sis. Per­haps that too can be a suc­cess in due course.

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