Cllr Joe Reilly.

Navan school places shortfall sees principals meet for crunch talks

Secondary school principals in Navan met last week in what was described as “a very challenging†scenario on the question of second-level school places in the county from next September. The principals are also expected to meet with Meath VEC officials next month to co-ordinate the number of applications for school places with the aim of making a presentation to the Department of Education on the need for a new secondary school in the town. Up to 50 students could be left without school places next September because all the schools in the town and the rest of the county are at full capacity. The school places shortfall was highlighted in a report by Meath VEC on the proposed merger/amalgamation of Meath and Louth VECs under a Government plan to cut the number of VECs throughout the country. The report projects a 1,480-pupil increase in VEC enrolment by 2014. The VEC projects the following demand for additional second-level schools in the county - Navan (1,000-pupil school), Ashbourne (800 pupils, including PLC provision), Gaelcoláiste in Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin and Ratoath, and PLC colleges in Dunboyne/Navan. There are nine VEC schools with 4,500 pupils along with four community schools, accommodating 2,600 pupils. By 2014, the VEC says, there will be a need for the existing nine VEC schools plus two new VEC schools to accommodate between 6,000-6,500 pupils, along with four community schools accommodating 2,500-3,000 pupils. Sinn Fein Cllr Joe Reilly and chairperson of Beaufort College board of management said that the failure of Minister for Education and Science, Mary Coughlan, to provide a new secondary schools for Navan and County Meath would endanger young people's future educational development. “Data submitted by the VEC to the Department shows that, this year alone, 400 extra places has to be found within the VEC system. The projected increase within the VEC structure alone by 2014 is a massive 1480 new places,†he said. “These projected figures show the demand for four new schools in Meath with Navan requiring a new 1,000-student secondary schoolâ€. He said a response by Minister Coughlan to TD Arthur Morgan in the Dail showed that the minister and Government is completely out of touch with educational needs of the young people and their parents' educational desires in Navan and County Meath. “Waffling on about figures for 2017 is not the response required for Meath's immediate needs,†said Cllr Reilly.