Dublin 8 needs another secondary school, said the members of the Dublin City Council committee representing that postcode on Wednesday, as they agreed to write and tell Education Minister Norma Foley.
Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon had proposed a motion that the South Central Area Committee write to the minister with three asks.
First, more resources for the five existing secondary schools in Dublin 8. Second, a new mixed, non-denominational secondary school in the area. Third, for the minister or her planning team to meet with local parents about the need for a new secondary school.
“There are only enough secondary school spaces for one in three children finishing primary school in Dublin 8,” Pidgeon’s motion says.
Sinn Féin Councillor Máire Devine and Labour Councillor Darragh Moriarty spoke in support of the motion, and the committee as a whole backed it.
This was all part of an ongoing campaign for a new secondary school to serve Dublin 8.
Thus far, the government has not been supportive, with ministers of state saying in the Dáil and Seanad recently that Department of Education models don’t show it’s needed.
There aren’t enough secondary-school places in Dublin 8, and the ones it’s got are all under religious patronage – while a growing number of parents want mixed, non-denominational schools, they said. Wealthier parts of Dublin have more secondary-school seats per kid, they pointed out.
In both cases the response from the government was essentially the same.
“The most recent projections for the Dublin 8 school planning area indicate an increase in requirements at primary level up to 2026 and decreasing thereafter,” Thomas Byrne TD, minister of state at the Department of Education, told Seery-Kearney in the Seanad.
“At post-primary level, the recent projections indicate a slight increase in requirements at post-primary level up to 2031 followed by a projected reduction in enrolments thereafter,” said the Fianna Fáil TD.
Anyways, Kieran O’Donnell, a Fine Gael minister of state, told Costello in the Dáil, a new Educate Together school has recently been built that serves Dublin 8.
That’s across the city in Sandymount.
It “was established in Sandymount Park to serve the Dublin 8 school planning area, along with the Dublin 2, Dublin 4, Dublin 6 and Clonskeagh school planning areas as a regional solution”, he said.
Kearney suggested that, if the department’s models weren’t saying a new school is needed in Dublin 8, they might be flawed. But Byrne, the minister of state, said he believed in the models.
In his own constituency, Meath East, “this was an issue a number of years ago, where the demographic projections of the Department did not match what was happening on the ground for various reasons”, Byrne said.
However, “I believe the Department system has improved immensely since then,” he said. “Over the past number of years, we have not had situations where children were without school places.”
The department’s model might only show a slight increase in demand for post-primary school places in Dublin 8 up to 2031, says Louise Fitzpatrick, a representative of the campaign for a new secondary school in the area.
But that’s an increase from bad to worse. “They’re still not taking into account that these 45 percent [of pupils currently] leaving the area [to go to secondary school] shouldn’t have to be travelling out of their area,” Fitzpatrick says.
Saying that if kids in Dublin 8 want a secondary school there’s one available in Sandymount is “insane”, she says.
On Tuesday about 4pm, Google Maps says it’d take 52 minutes by C1 bus, changing to the Luas Red Line, to get from Sandymount Park Educate Together to Rialto. And it’s that part of Dublin 8 that is really short of secondary-school places, Fitzpatrick says.
Fitzpatrick said that a recent survey of a class of 24 primary school pupils in Dublin 8 found that they’d be going to 11 different secondary schools, all across the city.
There are a variety of different reasons that pupils from Dublin 8 are travelling to other parts of the city for secondary school, Pidgeon said at Wednesday’s meeting.
“But the kind of, the core reasons we found from talking to people are, there’s an issue with a lot of people don’t want to send their children to religious schools anymore,” he said.
Having a system that requires kids to travel long distances across the city to get to and from school each day conflicts with the state’s goals for cutting carbon emissions from the transport sector, and with Dublin City Council’s goal of creating a 15-minute city.
“Of course, it is impacting on the carbon footprint,” said Costello, the Green Party TD, in the Dáil on 13 July.
“It is impacting on their independent mobility because they are relying on lifts from parents to get to far-flung schools instead of simply being able to walk or cycle to a school right beside them,” he said.
While students from Dublin 8 are scattered across the city in secondary schools all over because there isn’t enough capacity in their own area, other, wealthier areas have extra capacity.
For example, in the Blackrock and Booterstown school planning area there’s more than three available secondary-school places for every primary-school pupil, according to figures Costello, the Green Party TD, got through a parliamentary question.
“Blackrock recently got a new school despite having this huge over capacity,” he said.
Where to put it
At the council committee meeting Wednesday, Moriarty, the Labour councillor, while supporting the motion, cautioned that there is a shortage of available land.
“You know, we’re always clamouring for delivery of different infrastructure in the area, whether it be housing or community infrastructure, and the land isn’t really available in the built-up inner-city in Dublin 8 anymore,” he said. “So I think we have to be clear about how we would deliver additional school capacity.”
Fitzpatrick says the campaign for the new school would suggest putting it on a site combining the old SIPTU training college building and an adjoining OPW furniture warehouse on South Circular Road, between Kilmainham and James’s Hospital.
“For now, our main aim is to get a meeting with the minister,” she says. “To get her to acknowledge that the model is flawed.”
Devine, the Sinn Féin councillor, said that she was a founding member of the Griffith Barracks Educate Together primary school on South Circular Road.
“It’s painful. It’s very, very painful dealing with the department,” she said. “I’ll help with any way I can bring my experience to bear.”
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 17.26 on 26 July 2023 to reflect that the class of primary school pupils in Dublin 8 had 24 members not 25, and they were moving on to 11 different secondary schools, rather than 12.