Pressure on school places squeezing out feeder schools
Increasing demand for places in Dunshaughlin Community College has meant pupils from traditional feeder schools such as Kilmessan and Lismullin have not secured places for the first time.
The situation has caused extreme worry and upset for the pupils affected and their parents and at this point at least one student has no school to go to in September.
Traditionally half of the children attending Kilmessan National School went on to secondary school in Dunshaughlin and up to this year, all children from Kilmessan NS seeking a place in Dunshaughlin were accommodated.
The school is not in the official catchment area for Dunshaughlin but is a feeder school and falls into category 6 of the schools enrolment policy, along with Lismullin, Kiltale and Cannistown NS.
Principal of Kilmessan NS Brian Mullins confirmed that five children from sixth class who applied for Dunshaughlin Community College have not got a place there for September. Some of those children had applied to other schools as well.
“We have had an excellent relationship with the school, no child from our school was ever refused a place. Over 50 per cent of our children traditionally went there and there was no reason to believe otherwise this year until they got the refusal letters. They attended the open day and applied for places not in the not unrealistic expectation that they would be given a place so it came as a great surprise to those children and their parents that they did not get a place as there was no indication there would be a problem,” he said.
Mr Mullins has been 18 years teaching in the school and said there was never a problem before getting in to Dunshaughlin. “We always assumed we were in the catchment area. There are schools that are geographically much further away from Dunshaughlin that are in the same category as we are.
“Our numbers are going up. For the point of view of certainty in the future, we would like to know if the school is going to be in the catchment area of Dunshaughlin.”
Dane McGovern son's Den is in sixth class in Kilmessan NS. They applied for both St Patrick's Classical School in Navan and also Dunshaughlin Community College. He explained that the many of the children in Kilmessan go to Dunshaughlin, and he had no idea they may not get a place for their son and said five other parents now find themselves in the same predicament.
“We went to the two enrolment events. In St Pats, it was crystal clear what the process was and how it worked. We knew it would be difficult to get a place and we knew what to expect and how the waiting list was formed.”
However, they had no idea that there could be problem in securing a place in Dunshaughlin Community College until the letter came. They are currently taking a section 29 appeal.
Mr McGovern pointed out that even though Dunsany and Kilmessan are in the same parish, Dunsany is in the catchment area but Kilmessan is not. He said they would have considered Trim but did not apply as they assumed Den would get into Dunshaughlin and now there are no places.
Martina Kiernan, whose son Cian is also a sixth class pupil in Kilmessan NS, said they also applied to St Pats in Navan and Dunshaughlin Community College. They guessed he would not get St Pat’s but said there was no advance notice there could be an issue with Dunshaughlin. She said on average half the class always went to Dunshaughlin and they always got a place.
“There was no word of warning it would be tight on places. They must have had some idea what was coming. There was no communication and no warning,” she said.
Dunshaughlin College at full capacity
Unprecedented demand for places in Dunshaughlin Community College has meant 60 students who applied to the school had to be turned down including those from traditional feeder schools who had always got places in the past.
School principal Shane Foley said they were “very much humbled” that so many people had picked them as a school of choice and was a “good reflection” on the school but it had put them in the difficult position that they could not accommodate all the students who had applied.
A state-of-art extension was built four and a half years ago which brought capacity to 1,000 but the school is currently operating above capacity with 1,035 students and Mr Foley said they have already converted a number of non-teaching spaces to teaching spaces to accommodate the additional students.
He confirmed there are 58 children on the waiting list but said some of these would have secured places in other schools.
Mr Foley warned that the issue is not going to go away and with the population of Dunshaughlin rising, they could find themselves filling 150 places from schools close by and only able to offer 30 places outside that next year.
“Following first round offers, not all students from category six could be accommodated. Some students from category six, which encompasses traditional feeder schools of Kilmessan, Kiltale, Lismullin and Cannistown, were accommodated because they either lived in the catchment area or had a sibling attending the school. Unfortunately we were not in a position to accommodate a number of students from traditional feeder schools. That was based on the agreed enrolment as set by the board of management 2018-2019,” said Mr Foley.
“The college has made a lot of representation both to LMETB and to the Minister and the Department of Education to find a solution to allow Dunshaughlin Community College to accommodate these students and to cater for the future needs of Dunshaughlin and its hinterland. Dunshaughlin remains optimistic that a solution will be found to cater for their needs.”
Mr Foley said an application has been made to the Dept of Education and they are currently awaiting a response.
He said it was the first time they had had to refuse students from Lismullin and Kilmessan. “We were quite distressed at having to refuse them, we know the human story and have met the parents and are in regular contact.”
Mr Foley also said the school has reviewed its enrolment policy and a new policy was approved by the LMETB board in December.
The Department of Education has not yet responded to our request for comment on the situation.