A primary school board has been sacked by its patron for enrolling an extra infant class last September without approval.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn approved the dissolution by An Foras Pátrúnachta of the board of management at Gaelscoil Uí Drisceoil in Glanmire, Co Cork, before Christmas. The all-Irish schools’ patron body has put two managers in place in the meantime but plans are being made to put a new board in place shortly.
The school moved from the rugby club where it first opened in 2006 to a former hotel building in Dunkettle 2011. But a board decision early last year to take in three infant classes in September was made without the patron’s approval.
It did not have sanction either from the Department of Education to change from a previous intake of two junior infant classes to three, as it would not need to pay an additional teacher if the extra 20 to 30 children were enrolled instead across other schools in the area. The department confirmed it had discussions last year with the school, which now has around 300 pupils up to fifth class.
“The school were advised that, based on the department’s analysis of pupil numbers in the Riverstown/Glanmire catchment area, there was sufficient school accommodation capacity available to cater for pupil place demand. In that regard, the school authority accepted that the long-term size of the school should remain at 16 classes,” a spokesperson told the Irish Examiner.
The possibility of appeals over refusal to enrol meant the three classes were allowed enrol last autumn, but the patron body asked each board member in July for an explanation of their role.
It is understood Mr Quinn approved the board’s dissolution in November following a request from An Foras, under a section of the 1998 Education Act that can be used where a patron believes a board is not discharging its functions effectively. An Foras Pátrúnachta did not comment on the situation when contacted by the Irish Examiner yesterday.
Aside from the enrolment issue, there were longer-running tensions between the board and patron body over the teaching of religion. An Foras said its multi-denominational ethos means no faith-specific religion should be taught during school hours, but children of different faiths were being taught separately for the first 20 minutes of each day since the school opened in 2006.
The patron called a halt to this in late 2011, despite the arguments of the board and many staff and parents that the established practice should be allowed continue.
“We told the Foras last year we wanted things to stay the same. It was operating fine until this happened out of the blue at the end of 2011,” said one parent who asked not to be named.
The teaching of denominational religion during school hours is now forbidden, but Catholic and Humanist teaching is available before or after school for parents who want it for their children.
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