As a group we are disappointed that apart from one holding email (April 4th) we have received no acknowledgement or substantive engagement from the Department on the issues raised at our meeting on February 13th last. While the group were not expecting an immediate response and understand that there may be complexities in balancing various interested parties’ rights, it was represented to us at the meeting that there would be engagement and an open line of communication with the Department and Minister through your office.
We had felt positive following the meeting and believed we were no longer in the frustrating position of having no engagement or response from the Department, as had been the case with the current Minister’s predecessor. It is this lack of meaningful engagement by public representatives and lack of transparency with the system that results in groups such as ours who are seeking to engage in a process in a respectful way feeling marginalised. We have always attempted to address these issues through advocacy and participation on a principled and reasonable basis and expected similar in return. The matter is not simply a policy issue for us but something that directly affects us and goes to the root of our inalienable constitutional rights as parents. It cannot simply be put on the backburner as when it comes to giving our children access to the best education possible time is of the essence.
The parents and primary school children of Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 deserve choice and a voice and full unfettered access to the new secondary schools being opened in their local community on the same basis as their more privileged (when it comes to choices in education) neighbours.
I am sure the Department acknowledges that it makes sense to ensure that catchments surrounding proposed new schools service the local communities to which they are adjacent, where those local communities (Dublin 8 and Dublin 12) are severely lacking in real and sustainable choice for second level education. Having to travel through and well past those areas in the densest traffic in the country to access choice in education is ludicrous.
We are not looking for a redraft of the guiding principles being followed by forward planning. We are seeking a level of logic and flexibility by having the two school planning districts of Dublin 8 and Dublin 12 included in the catchment for the Harold’s Cross school. Other schools have a catchment comprising four school planning districts and catchments have in the past been revised. Such a move would demonstrate clearly that the Department is willing to engage with parents (give credence to parental preference) and children and believes that all local children are entitled to access new schools being opened on an equal footing to their neighbours. It would identify the current minister as one not afraid to embrace change and understanding the central role of education in ensuring children’s wellbeing.
We would be grateful if you could bring this and previous correspondence to the Minister’s attention and we await your response or at the very least an indication of when we can expect further engagement from the Department on the issue.