More than 70 teenage boys are looking for new schools in the autumn after the fee-paying Cistercian College told parents it is to close.
While the fee-paying, boarding-only school in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, may remain open for 60 students due to sit the Junior and Leaving Certificates in 2018, 75 first-, third-, and transition-year boys will not be returning in September.
Consultations are proposed with parents of more than 50 second- and fifth-year students to determine if there is demand to continue classes for another year and minimise disruption to their State exam preparations.
After 112 years, the trustees of the school run by Trappist monks said it is unsustainable to keep it open after enrolments fell by almost half in a decade to 167, having maintained average student figures of around 300 up to 2009. Past pupils include ex-taoiseach Brian Cowen, ex-tánaiste Dick Spring, and racehorse trainer Willie Mullins.
With the impact of the recession largely to blame, the Cistercian order’s hopes that previous enrolment figures would return have not materialised. In a letter to parents yesterday, Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey Richard Purcell said school operations will not be impacted up to June.
“The decision to close Cistercian College has not been an easy one for the monastic community to make. It has been made in the knowledge that it will affect the lives of many people,” he wrote.
A statement said many options were considered to increase enrolment, including five-day boarding, enrolling girls, and seeking more international students. But the possibility of moving into the free education scheme was not an option after being given consideration some time ago, a spokesperson said.
“This was not deemed feasible, given the size of the school and the fact the school is boarding only. Such a move would have meant admitting day pupils and changing the model of the school. It was also deemed that enrolment would not have increased significantly enough to justify the move,” he said.
This option has been taken by a number of the country’s fee-paying schools in recent years, particularly since the reduction by the Department of Education in the numbers of teachers whose salaries it will pay.
This less favourable staffing allocation requires more fee income to be used to match pupil-teacher ratios in free second-level schools. Combined with the difficulty of families in affording fees, this has seen the number of fee-charging schools fall from 56 to 52 since 2011.
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