08 January, 2013

Education in Ireland

Late last year we received two letters, one each from our two local secondary schools.  They were writing to say that Harry wasn't going to get a place with them.  Or, if he did, it would probably be August '13 before he found out he had one.  
The two schools my son's primary school feeds into are both oversubscribed and he's well down the waiting list.  44th and 35th to be precise.  That's a whole class worth of kids down the waiting list.
I dread to think of where Oscar and Arthur will fit into all of this as, by the time they finish, there will be another primary school with 100+ pupils looking for places.  Did you know, in my area alone there are 6 primary schools feeding into 2 secondary schools.
He's not alone though.
Where he is alone though is in the fact that we live in an area that seems to be a no man's land for secondary school criteria.  Which is baffling considering the amount of uniforms I see in the estate relating to both of the schools he cannot get a place in.  
I understand that one of the schools has had to cut back on the number of pupils it takes in due to budgetary cuts and the other has cut back from 1,000 kids to 800 because they were fed up with being everyone's 'back up' school and then ending up with only 800 kids anyway. What's even more frustrating is the fact that while he goes to the feeder school for both of these Secondary Schools he doesn't live in the area.  Whereas with every other school we can think of he may live in the area but he doesn't go to the feeder school?!  Don't you love how the Department of Education has the same list of rules regarding entry criteria for every school?  Yes, okay, I'm being sarcastic but when you've spent the equivalent of time of a day's work on the phone trying to find anyone who has a clue, in the Department of Education, you'd understand my sarkiness.
No one there seems to listen properly e.g. "Yes, but sixth on the waiting list is a good thing . . . ".  "NO!  You aren't listening, we are sixth on the entry criteria list, we've 44th on the actual list".  "Sixth is okay, no?"  
"Er, NO!!"
I wouldn't mind if Harry was a troublemaker, he's not.  He's one of the top in his class, every time.  He's a credit to his teachers and us and now it seems he may end up in a doss house of a school because no one else can take him.
Oh, the 'doss house' school.  Let me explain.  There are several schools out there, and we all know one of them, where we wouldn't dream of sending our children.  The schools that seem to be full of kids who have been expelled from other schools or who seem to have no interest or aptitude for learning, you know the ones I mean, right?  Well, if the Department of Education can get you a place in a doss house school you are obliged to take it.  You are not allowed to turn it down due to it's reputation as the school's reputation is only your personal opinion after all.  Sure aren't all Irish Secondary Schools inspected and found to be fantastic year in and year out?
Sarcasm again, I am sorry.
Except I'm not sorry.  I am angry and furious and raging and stressed and worried sick.
Harry himself is worried sick.  Most of his mates are all chat about going up to the next school.  He can't join in because he doesn't know where he is going.  Jesus, neither do we.
Dealing with the Department of Education is a joy.  I've had two days of conversations like this:

  1. "No, wrong department, you need to ring . . . . . ."
  2. "I don't know why they sent you here, you should be talking to . .  .. "
  3. "There is no point talking to us until you submit a Section 29" - that's a whole other headache.
  4. "Dublin is quite small, have you applied for schools further afield e.g. Drogheda, DunLaoghaire and Rathfarnham?"
  5. "If you can't find a school you can have him home tutored".
  6. "You have to accept a place we find you".:
Interesting huh?  Okay, point by point
  1. This is the number on your website.
  2. The last two departments I spoke to all said I should be talking to you!
  3. I can't submit a Section 29 (basically taking the school to stand in front of the Department of Education and explain why they can't take my son) until we get an official, signed by the Board of Management, letter of refusal.  That could come as late as August.  He's meant to start school at the end of that month.
  4. Dublin is small when you have a car.  Not when you are 12 years of age and have to get two buses.  Two buses in an area you never knew existed up until now.
  5. Home tutoring?  Really?  Believe it when I see it, especially as . . .
  6. We have no choice but to accept a school you say can take him.  Regardless of that's school academic record.  Yeah, tough shit kid, you live in an area (.5km out of the catchment zone) that has no secondary schools so take what you're given and act happy.
Today I spent three hours trying even more schools.  I also emailed Alan Farrell TD, James O'Reilly TD, Brendan Ryan and Clare Daly.  Do you reckon any of them will be able to help Harry out?  Brendan Ryan should, education is in his remit after all.

Today I also applied to a further 7 schools, all of which are easy-ish for Harry to get to i.e. only one bus or train.

I am furious.  I want out.  I want out of this ludicrous country.  I want to sell everything I own and get the hell out of here.  I give up.  I really do.  Jesus, if I can't guarantee my son a good education how in the name of God do I guarantee him any kind of future here at all?  

Shall keep you up to date with what's going on.  Oh, and Clare Daly's office was the first one to contact me.  

p.s. Telling me to consider 'sending him private' doesn't help!  Nor does telling me to 'sit tight'

p.p.s. New primary schools for 2014/15 are being announced this week.  One of which is for the Swords/Malahide area.  That's another 100+ kids going to be discharged into an already overloaded secondary school system in 2022/23.


  1. I know its horrendous but wouldnt lose hope, 30 kids in my sons year were on the waiting list even though they were in feeder school,this was the first time in 25 years that kids in this feeder were waitlisted, they all got acceptance by easter. so many parents go private, move, have names down forever in 100 schools and will only choose one. fingers crossed xx T

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