Staff and pupils at Balreask School with Brian Dunphy of the High Kings.

High King support for the little school with a big milestone

Irish ballad group the High Kings will perform a benefit concert in Dunboyne Castle Hotel on 20th April to mark the 50th anniversary of Balreask School, a private primary school in Navan.

Band member Brian Dunphy has a son attending the Balreask school and was keen to do something to support the school, which has seen pupil numbers drop considerably since the recession and which receives no government funding.
The school has gone from having an enrolment of 45-50 pupils to just 16, making it difficult to run the school.
Brian Dunphy’s 12-year-old son Sam son has attended the school for four years. He said: “Our son went from a class of 31 being totally left behind to a class of 10 where he is taught to his individual needs. The progress is phenomenal. It is hugely family orientated and a very friendly school.”
He said the standard of the musicals, plays and projects that come out of the school is extremely high and shows how good the Montessori system of teaching is. “There is no better way to be taught than individually and to their needs,” he said.
Balreask School, which is just off the Dublin Road, was set up by Ann Gibney, 50 years ago. Her daughter Natasha Elliott taught in the school and took over as principal in 2008 when her mother retired.
“We don’t get any funding from the state at all. When the recession hit in 2008, parents lost jobs and financially couldn’t afford to keep their children in the school. Some families had two or three children in the school and couldn’t afford it,” said Nastasha.
“We went from having 45-50 pupils to just 16 which makes it very difficult to run the school. Some private schools in Dublin are finding it difficult as well. People think there is funding towards staff but there isn’t. There is in some secondary schools but it doesn’t happen in primary schools. “
Balreask School has three full-time teachers and a music teacher comes in once a week. The school relies entirely on fees for funding which are €750 per term for junior infants up to first class and €800 per term for second class to sixth class.
“We are Montessori trained. We keep a very close eye on the curriculum and cover everything but also incorporate our Montessori training.
“The children work at their own pace, which we set. If a child is particularly gifted at maths for example, we let them move on ahead. Likewise if a child has a difficulty, with reading for example, we work with them and because class sizes are so small, they get individual attention,” said Natasha.
She said many parents aren’t aware that the school exists and they want to raise awareness. Children are prepared for communion and confirmation if the parents’ wish but it is not compulsory.
Recently returning from a successful tour of the US, the High Kings will perform at Dunboyne Castle as part of their  ‘Grace and Glory’ tour on 20th April.
The concert will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Balreask School and is a fund-raiser for the school.
“We are so grateful to Brian and the High Kings. We very much appreciate it,” said