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Annual scramble begins in Galway to secure secondary school places


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Annual scramble begins in Galway to secure secondary school places Annual scramble begins in Galway to secure secondary school places

From the Galway City Tribune – The annual minefield of getting into a secondary school in Galway City begins in earnest this month, with most schools likely to be once again heavily oversubscribed for 2023/24.

Under changes to the Admissions to School Act 2018, schools must now publish their admission policy and outline how students are allocated places. They must give a window for applications to be received in a move designed to remove discrimination of children who have moved into the catchment.

But there continues to be a preference for children with long-term ties to the city in most schools, leaving parents who have moved here to jostle for places in preferred institutions.

Each school allocates places based on different criteria with various closing dates applying. Most school close applications within the next five weeks.

Since September 2020, schools are no longer permitted to hold waiting lists depending on when the application was received. The applications to be considered are based on what was submitted in the current application window.

However, two girls’ school will continue to allocate some of its places based on the applications it has received before 2020 and until the academic year 2025/26.

Salerno in Salthill made 116 places available for this year’s cohort of first years, with 279 applications received.

The all-girls’ school allocates places first to the sisters of current and past students, then to the students of Scoil Íde and next the daughters of school staff. Under these first three categories, there were 39, 29 and one place allocated. The next category was daughters of parents who attended Salerno, but no student accepted a place under this criterion. The remainder of the first-year intake – 47 pupils – were taken from the waiting list.

“This list having been compiled prior to February 1, 2020 applies only up to and including the academic year 2025/26,” states the policy.

The Dominican College – Taylor’s Hill – accepted 53 from its waiting list. It had 298 applications and took in 116, the same number set for next year. Some 63 students were accepted under the siblings, feeder school (Scoil Róis) and close relative categories.

Coláiste na Coiribe had no breakdown of its intake this year, or how many applied to join. The only key information on its admission notice was that 150 people would be accepted next year.

While other schools expressly state that academic ability would not be a criterion for acceptance, the Knocknacarra-based school put this at the top of its preference.

“A student’s academic ability, skills or aptitude; unless: evidence of same is furnished by the applicant as evidence of the student’s level of fluency in the Irish language and the school is oversubscribed,” the school states.

Surprisingly – for the self-labelled ‘world’s largest all-Irish language education institution’ – having attended one of the 12 gaelscoileanna in and around the vicinity of Galway only put students fifth in the list for consideration of a place.

The second category by priority was the sons or daughters of staff, next was siblings and then parents or grandparents having gone before them.

In Salthill, the mixed school Coláiste Éinde had to close its registration early for the open day held on Wednesday night due to the huge numbers applying for tickets. Last year the Salthill school had 144 places and 544 applicants.

It allocated 67 places to children of siblings, two places to the children of staff and the rest to names drawn out of a hat in a lottery that is supervised by an independent observer.

St Joseph’s Patrician College – The Bish – will have fewer places next year – down from 150 to 130 for the 2023/24 intake. This will be bad news for parents aiming to get their sons into the popular Nun’s Island school.

Last year there were 267 applications – 51 places went to the brothers of past or present pupils, two places were allocated to the sons of staff, 27 places were sons or grandsons of past students, one place went to the grandson or nephew of a staffer while the remainder – 69 places – went to students from city primary schools.

Preference for St Pat’s sixth class students – up to now always considered a feeder school – has been removed, which will come as a blow for parents who placed their son in the Lombard Street school specifically to avoid the stress of trying to find a second level place.

That rule does not apply to students of Scoil Iognáid, a feeder school to Coláiste Iognáid – better known as The Jes. But not all of their students will be guaranteed a place.

Of its 104 places for this year’s first years, 20 were allocated from Scoil Iognáid while 21 came through a lottery from pupils of other schools who did not fit the other criteria. Some 37 students were siblings of present students, five were siblings of past students, three were sons or daughters of staff or nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews of Jesuits, who got priority over the sons and daughters of past pupils – 18 of these won places in a category which has been capped to a maximum 25 per cent of the annual intake.

This will be the first open day for the newly amalgamated Coláiste Muire Máthair – made up of girls from Our Ladies College who joined the boys at St Mary’s College.

Spokesperson Anthony Carey said their first year places will go down from 168 this year to 144 – it was 182 the year before that. The fact that there will be six classes of first years, down from seven and eight in previous years, will add further pressure on the race for city secondary school places.

“We’ve almost reached capacity – it is fairly packed – as we reach the end of our second phase of building in what is a five-year plan to upgrade the school. The maximum we can have in the practical classes like woodwork is 24 so with six classes that’s why we’ve set them at 144 for the next year,” he explained.

There were 281 applications for this academic year but the places did not fill up immediately.

“Some parents pay the voluntary contribution but then go somewhere else and don’t tell you. So until you have bums on seats you don’t know whether all places are filled. The fact that all schools now have a similar window for accepting the applications equalizes things between the schools.

“We would never have had a waiting list. Each year is a fresh year. We do get patents coming in and wanting to sign up siblings for a couple of years down the line but we’re unable to do that.”

Once the third phase of building is completed, the school is on track to have between 900 and 1,000 pupils.

That’s the long-term magic number for the Educate Together Secondary School, which recently moved to its second temporary home in Newtownsmyth. It will accept 72 first years next intake – up from 48 in its first three years in existence.

Principal Sarah Molloy said it hopes to facilitate more students once it moves to its permanent home, but just where that will be has yet to finalised by the Department of Education.

The Department made a submission about improving transport links in the next Galway City Development Plan in relation to a site in Garraun on the Oranmore coastal Road, which could indicate it has its sights on this location for the new school.

Coláiste Muirlinne in Doughiska had at least 200 parents show up for its open night this week, an indication of its popularity. It was also heavily oversubscribed, with 251 applications for 120 places.

Its offers prioritised catchment area (70), feeder schools (93) and then siblings (44).
This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune, October 7. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

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