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Parents press on with plans for Gaelscoil

July 19, 2010

A GROUP of parents in Ratoath, Co Meath, are pressing ahead with plans to establish a Gaelscoil in the town despite receiving no funding or recognition from the Department of Education and Science.

No Gaelscoil has received recognition since 2008, and the department has rejected all seven applications for recognition to commence made by Gaelscoileanna this year.

Gaelscoil Rath Tó plans to open in September and currently has 11 students registered to enter a junior infants class.

Some 30 students had been registered for this class before the department confirmed it would not grant the school recognition.

The school still has over 30 students registered for entry for every year from 2011 to 2014.

Minister for Education Mary Coughlan has said there is not sufficient demographic growth in Ratoath to merit a new primary school there.

“There was a specific application for the establishment of a new Gaelscoil in Ratoath, Co Meath,” she told the Dáil last April. “However, after detailed analysis of the increase in pupil numbers for September this year and of the capacity in existing schools it was not necessary to establish a new school to cater for the demographic increase.”

She said that no primary schools would be given recognition to commence until a review of application procedures has been completed.

Seán Ó Buachalla, a member of the school’s establishment committee, said the department had admitted the need for a new school in Ratoath in late 2009, but had “U-turned” on that decision in February 2010. “Demographics suggest a new school will be needed in Ratoath. The 2006 census showed that Ratoath has the highest youth population in the country, with 36 per cent of the town under 14 years of age.”

A classroom has been secured on the first floor of Ratoath’s community centre, and the school has hired a teacher using financial assistance from Conradh na Gaeilge. Local businesses have pledged their support to the project, and have provided desks, chairs and cleaning services.

Gaelscoil Rath Tó is hosting an open evening in the school this Wednesday, which Mr Ó Buachalla hopes will attract new enrolments and restore the confidence of parents who are nervous about sending their children to an unrecognised school. “This is not just a local issue, but a national one,” he said. “It is a unifying issue for anybody who supports Irish language education.”

Hugh McDowell