There was a full house at the Public meeting last Thursday night to address the chronic shortage of secondary school places for Newbridge and its wider hinterland.
Jennifer Buttner, chairperson of South Kildare Educate Together 2nd level campaign introduced the speakers for the night and spoke of her wish to see an Educate Together Secondary School somewhere in the region to service Newbridge and further afield.
“My experience of Educate Together has been so positive at primary school level that I am committed to working towards a Second level Educate Together no matter how long it takes because I know the tremendous benefit it would be to our community,” said Jennifer Buttner
Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy presented the findings of research painstakingly conducted by volunteers, of all the children leaving primary school this year versus the number of secondary school places available to accept them. This time last year she found evidence of a shortfall of 133 secondary school places in Newbridge to service the needs of Newbridge primary feeder schools. That shortfall has jumped over 30 places since last year.
“ Once you factor in demand from rural schools, the expected acceleration in growth of primary school children in Kildare and the fact that we have no ASD unit in Newbridge – the demand for second level places could reach over 1300 places over the next 5 years. Knowledge is power and the more information we have about actual demand the more powerful our message. But an important part of that message, not communicated by the numbers is the importance of choice when it comes to second level education. Educate Together would be a very positive and welcome addition to the choice of over-subscribed schools in the area” said Fiona McLoughlin Healy.
Amy Mulvihill, a representative on behalf Educate Together told the assembled crowd about their ethos.
“ For over 30 years Educate Together has successfully developed a unique, incusive, non-denominational, democratic and learner-centred model of education. Instead of teaching to the test , we educate students to become fully rounded people and enhance their learning capacity. There are now 74 Educate Together National Schools educating over 10,000 students across 18 counties with 25% of schools operating in the DEIS schems and many having designated autism units. We have 3 secondary schools open presently and 5 more to open in 2016 with a very strong focus on the academic”, said Amy Mulvihill.
Jessica Bird, the final speaker presented her experience of lobbying for an Educate Together Secondary School in Wicklow, which is due to open in 2016.
“ After an initial campaign that failed largely because of numbers, our parents re-grouped and succeeded second time around. They may tell you numbers don’t matter , that choice matters but when it comes down to it numbers matter. For a town the size of Newbridge you would need at least 2,000 expression of interest from parents seeking an Educate Together Secondary School.” Said Jessica Bird.
If you are a parent who is interested in getting another Second Level School in or around Newbridge or its feeder areas please log onto www.sket2ndlevel.org and complete an expression of interest form today. SKET 2nd level campaign are also looking for new volunteers and invite offers of help through their website/facebook or twitter accounts.