The Department of Education has not been approached about reform plans for four northside Cork schools that include closing the North Monastery primary school.
The proposal from the school’s trustees this week caused anger among management and parents at Scoil Mhuire Fatima at the North Mon, with a 200-year-old history of primary education.
It has been proposed that it be closed and pupils moved by next September to a new school, to be created through an amalgamation with the nearby St Vincent’s Convent primary school.
However, a meeting of North Mon parents on Wednesday heard of anger about the plans, including claims there is not enough space or facilities at the mostly girls’ school.
The trustees also propose that Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers move into the North Mon site from its temporary home in Farranferris, and that another parish school — North Presentation primary — become co-educational on a phased basis.
North Pres and St Vincent’s currently teach junior classes of boys, before most transfer to Scoil Mhuire Fatima which teaches second class to sixth class only.
As patron of all four schools, Catholic Bishop of Cork John Buckley has said he supports the plan in principle, and his spokesperson said he would support it if it is backed by schools and trustees. But while a final decision on any amalgamation is a matter for the patron, it would also require approval from Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
His department told the Irish Examiner that it has received no proposals from the patron for any amalgamations, and that there have been no discussions with officials on the idea.
A spokesperson said any proposal to amalgamate schools must involve consultation with all relevant stakeholders and follow decisions taken at local level.
The Department of Education also said it has received no application for any structural works at St Vincent’s primary school. The proposed amalgamation would involve 170 boys transferring there next September.
A school letter to parents of Scoil Mhuire Fatima has told them the board and staff are vehemently opposed to the proposals and are seeking further clarification on the many issues raised by the plan.
“The vacating of the historical site on which Scoil Mhuire Fatima is situated has been suggested. The North Monastery School was founded over 200 years ago. Our only aim in this process is to develop our school and strengthen our presence on this campus and we look forward to your support,” the letter states.
Local Sinn Féin TD and party education spokesman, Jonathan O’Brien, who is a past pupil at the North Mon, urged the bishop to intervene to protect the boys’ school.
“It is very clear that there are huge problems with the proposal to move the boys to St Vincent’s, in particular the fitness in St Vincent’s to accommodate them, and it is grossly unfair on the boys,” he said.
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