School patronage survey means gaelscoil for Birr and no change for Edenderry

A school patronage survey has shown that there’s sufficient appetite for a gaelscoil to be set up in Birr. School patronage changes will not take place in Edenderry, which was also surveyed, however due to insufficient demand.

Results of surveys from 38 towns across the country including Edenderry and Birr have been published by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn. The surveys were undertaken in the early part of this year as part of the Minister’s response to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary Schools and were aimed at establishing whether or not parents wanted a more diverse range of primary school patrons in the area.

Results published show that there’s sufficient parental demand in 23 out of the 38 areas to support an immediate change in the existing school patronage. In Birr’s case there’s a demand to change patronage to An Foras Patrunachta, a body set up to promote education through Irish.

In a statement An Foras Patrunachta said it’s “delighted” that a demand for education through Irish has been recognised in Birr. General secretary of the group Caoimhin O hEaghra said parents in Birr have been campaigning for years for a gaelscoil in the area, and are delighted they have succeeded.

Copies of survey results are being sent to all primary school patrons in each of the 38 areas surveyed now. Where demand for change has been confirmed, the Catholic Bishop or Archbishop will be asked to submit an interim response within three months and a final response with detailed proposals on divesting a school in six months.

Welcoming the publication of the surveys Minister Quinn said it’s another significant step on the road to providing a plurality of education and real choice for parents in the type of primary school they wish to send their children to. He also said he’s confident of a “generous response” from the existing patrons to the clear demand for change in the areas surveyed.

Minister Quinn said that while 15 of the 38 areas do not currently have sufficient demand to ensure a school of different patronage would be viable, this may change in the future and positions could be re-examined.

Surveys published this week were undertaken for four weeks from January 14 with parents of children up to twelve years of age. The 38 towns surveyed were chosen as they had a relatively stable population of between 5,000 and 20,000 and therefore little prospect of any new schools opening in coming years to cater for demographic demaind. A total of 10,715 valid survey responses were received over the four week period, with most surveys filled in online.