Educate Together appeals for more cash amid "real financial crisis"

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan with Kirsten Branigan and Nathan Parris at the recent opening of Ballymakenny College in Drogheda, an Educate Together secondary school.

School group Educate Together has appealed for funds after admitting it was "entering a period of real financial crisis" and could not keep up with demand for its services.

The organisation has already opened 74 primary schools and three secondary schools around the country, but said it had been asked to start primary schools in more than 20 areas in the coming years.

Educate Together is also opening eight second-level schools over the next three years, but said the low level of government funding — just 15% — had placed it in uncertain financial territory.

In the letter issued to “supporters” yesterday, the organisation’s CEO, Paul Rowe, said: “Educate Together was now entering a period of real financial crisis.

“Unless resolved, this may force us to significantly reduce services to schools and it may dramatically reduce our ability to transform Irish education for the benefit of future generations.”

Mr Roew said that where, schools had been built, “they quickly become oversubscribed”, and said some counties, such as Tipperary, Roscommon, and Monaghan, did not have an Educate Together school.

“At the moment, we are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for our schools,” Mr Rowe said.

The letter outlines how it costs an average of €95,000 to open a school, at a rate of around €24,000 per year for the first four years of operations.

Second level schools — the first Educate Together secondary schools were opened last year — cost even more, with the letter pointing out that eight more Educate Together schools were planned over the next three years and “as yet, the Government has provided no funding to Educate Together to do this work”.

Educate Together’s communications officer, Luke O’Shaughnessy, said the organisation did not want to refuse requests from government or communities to operate schools, but said Educate Together did not have an unlimited amount of resources.

He said there was “a possibility” that, in some cases, Educate Together would have insufficient resources to open schools, which, since they are built by the Department of Education, would effectively mean some ‘ghost schools’ — unless patrons could be found to run them.

Mr O’Shaughnessy said Educate Together was not in debt and that the point at which a decision would need to be made about the viability of future Educate Together schools opening had not been determined.

He added that while the department had outlined a vision for changes to the school patronage system, that could not happen without alternative funding being provided.

Educate Together is the patron body of a network of schools in Ireland which are operated according to the Educate Together Charter.

It is an independent NGO that runs schools offering equality of access and esteem to children “irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background”.

www.educatetogether.ie

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