26 Limerick children have not received an offer from any of the city’s schools for a place as a second year next September.
Under Limerick City’s unique CAO-style Common Enforcement System (CAS), offers were sent to households yesterday and were due to arrive at households this morning.
However, in the face of unprecedented demand this year, RTÉ News has learned that applications for 26 children have been rejected because Limerick city schools are at full capacity.
The news follows a warning from the Department of Education earlier this month that it expects “significant challenges” in areas across the country to ensure there are enough school places available for 2023, particularly at the post-primary level.
As capacity pressures prevail across the country, Limerick’s unique registration system allows the extent of the shortage to be quantified.
Limerick’s figure was initially much higher but nearly 50 more places have been created in some schools in recent days to meet the need.
This afternoon, the ministry said it was in “close engagement with patrons and school authorities in the relevant pressure areas, with a view to establishing the true extent of any capacity issues and to put any required solutions in place to facilitate the provision of the requisite school places”, reports RTE.
“The Department is aware that 26 students will not receive an offer this week of a place in post-primary school in Limerick for September 2023,” a statement from the Department said, reports RTE.
The department said the current increase in secondary school attendance will likely peak in the next year or two.
It is the result of a demographic “bulge” that has moved through the education system. Another 1,000 Ukrainian children will be transferred from primary to secondary school again this year.
Limerick’s joint application system includes all schools in the city plus two distant County Limerick schools. Among the 17 schools in the programme, there is also one for a fee.
Parents must tick at least 11 schools in order of preference, otherwise their application will not be accepted.
In practice, this means they have to list 11 of the 13 available options, as four of the city’s schools are for boys only and four for girls only.
Each year a number of families are offered a school which is down to their ‘choice’. This means that they will be offered a place in a school that they may not want their child to attend.
That year, the program received 2,114 applications, of which 2,088 were successful. 90% of applicants now get a place in the school that was their first choice. Just over 4% get the second or third choice.
Tomorrow morning, the families of the 26 children will each receive 11 rejection letters, one from each school they listed on the city’s joint school application form.
Under school admissions legislation, any school to which an application is made is required to respond, and Limerick’s unique CAO-style system requires families to list 11 out of 17 schools in order of preference.
Children all over town were walking home from school that afternoon, worried about the news ahead, for most of the morning mail, with or without a school offer, had arrived after they had left school.
Describing the impact of waiting for news of a place on the children in her care while they waited for news of a place at school, headmistress Claire Rea told RTÉ News some students were excited because they felt they were definitely getting their first choice , but others were worried or anxious and that this had made some awake, upset and worried last night.
She said some children were very anxious and the staff had prepared the children before the news.
“We have told them that its really important that they are conscious that there are going to be classmates tomorrow who are maybe feeling disappointed and that they have to be aware of this and very respectful and kind when they come in tomorrow”, reports RTE.
She said they talked to the children about the fact that while they have a right to be happy with their own news, they should “dampen it down a little and be conscious of others”, reports RTE.
The CAS system was introduced in 2005 at the request of then Education Secretary Noel Dempsey.
Following the controversy over the annual exclusion from schools of a small but significant number of children – mainly children from poor areas of the city – a system was introduced to ensure that children residing in the city were not handed over to other applicants from the further hinterland.
However, children from Germany and abroad are eligible to apply.
Although the system is centrally managed, each school still applies its own individual enrollment policy to select which pupils are admitted and a very small number of Limerick schools continue to offer equal access rights to children from a vast hinterland well beyond of the city limits as for the children who live much closer to its doors.
Conversely, every weekday morning, many children leave the town for schools in the towns of Croom and Pallaskenry, 14 and 12 miles away respectively.
RTÉ News was told that most of the 26 out-of-school children are city children.
Eoin Shinners, Chair of the Limerick Principal and Deputy Principals Association, said many of this year’s applications came from out-of-town locations.
He said he was confident more capacity would be freed up if rural children who were offered places instead went to schools closer to where they live.
However, some Limerick education sources privately express concern that some of its schools are once again favoring children outside the city limits at the expense of other children growing up within walking distance of their gates.
Hoping for more resources to address the issue
A secondary school teacher at St Munchin’s College in Limerick City said she hoped Education Secretary Norma Foley would provide additional resources to schools to increase their size or tell schools that children “from anywhere and everywhere”, rather than prioritizing children who live locally first.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime, Eric Nelligan said the issue was being reflected across the country, but was being felt in Limerick due to Limerick’s joint bid system.
“We brought in the common application system to make sure this didn’t happen, but it is happening so obviously there are flaws in the common application system,” reports RTE.
Mr Nelligan said all current children will have to accept or decline their places at the school on February 8 and this should open up a few more places.
“But after that, there will be a subsequent round in March and then into the summer, so there could be some children that could be holding out until the summertime,” he added, reports RTE.
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