Seamount College Kinvara

Seamount College

Student enrolment ensures Seamounts stay of execution

 

Students will be enrolled for the school year beginning next September at the open night of Seamount College, Kinvara, which takes place next Monday, January 14th at 7pm.

 

This will be a landmark event, ensuring the future of the school, which was founded in 1922.  Because of course, about 15 months ago, the Department of Education and Science was notified by Seamounts Patron Body, the Sisters of Mercy, of their in intention to close the school.

 

That closing down process was to have commence last September, and was to be completed by 2012, when the current cohort of students had completed their Leaving Cert exams.

 

Now the Sisters of Mercy are generously enabling the enrolment of students for September 2008.

 

Connacht Tribune August 31st 2007

 

Mercy nuns re-instate Board of Management at Seamount College

 

The Mercy Sisters at Seamount College in Kinvara have been forced to reinstate a board of Management.

 

The Order agreed to the move on the eve of this week's planned High Court proceedings initiated by the Association of Scondary Teacher of Ireland which claimed the Mercy Sisters had acted illegally.

 

The nuns have been at the centre of controversy since last October when they announced without warning that the school would close in 2012.

 

They replaced the board of management with a single manager as part of their move to phase out the school from this year.

 

This formed the basis of the ASTI's legal challenge with the union arguing that the disbandment of the board was in breach of the Education Act.

 

The settlement agreed in advance of the High Court hearing allows for any decisions by the single manager to be open to review by the newly re-instated board of management which includes a parent and teaching representative.

 

The ASTI had taken the action against the Mercy Sisters, who are the trustees of the school, and the Minister for Education and Science.

 

The ASTI has also reportedly received 18,000 towards its legal costs in taking the case.

 

Education Minister Mary Hanafin - although not agreeing with the nuns' decision - has sanctioned the replacement of the board with a single individual manager.

 

It is the latest twist in a long-running saga at the Kinvara school, with its future shrouded in uncertainty since late last year when the trustees announced that the school would close in 2012 with no First Year enrolled this autumn.

 

The nuns blamed the closure on a lack of funding to provide proper facilities and a suitable, wide curriculum into the future.

 

But the move galvanised both the local community and the ASTI into action and it turned into a major election issue in South Galway this summer.

 

Compromise was reached a week before polling day when Minister Hanafin announced that she would provide funding for a new school in Kinvara to be completed by 2012, if the Mercy Sisters continued enrolling students until the end of 2011/2012.

 

They prompted further discussions between the trustees and the Department, following which the Mercy Order agreed to enrol First Year this year and confirmed that those pupils could remain in the school until 2012.

 

The ASTI action was supposed to be heard at the end of July, but the Irish Independent has now discovered that the deal was hammered out 24 hours before that hearing was supposed to start.

 

According to ASTI sources, the settlement involved the trustees and the Minister paying all of their own costs and contributing 18,000 towards the union's.

 

Now the school is all set to resume normal service with a whole new batch of First Years arriving over the next week. 

 

 

Connacht Tribune July 6th 2007

 

Emergency Meeting amid Renewed Doubts over Seamount.

 

 

An emergency meeting took place this week to try and ensure that students will be admitted to the Seamount College this September as uncertainty surrounds the future of education in the area.

The Sisters of Mercy, who run the all girl school, have agreed to consider fresh submissions put to them this week to maintain the enrolment of first year students.

 

Late last year the Sisters of Mercy announced that no new first years would be taken in and that the school would close by 2012.  It sparked a local campaign of canvassing by parents who even advocated a vote against the Government prior to the last General Election.  But then, on the eve of the election, the Government announced that a new second level school would be built in Kinvara.

 

However, sanction for the new school was subject to the Sisters of Mercy agreeing that Seamount College would remain fully operational until 2012. The Trustees of the school gave a commitment that they would accept first year students this September and would provide education for them up to Junior Certificate level and not beyond.  But this was only on condition that the Department of Education provides alternative accommodation within this three year period a request which would be almost impossible to accede to.

 

In view of this the Board of Management of the school and parents representatives met with the Trustees on Tuesday in advance of a protest which was going to be organized.  Parents had planned a protest march at the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Ballinasloe in an effort to get a commitment on the continuation of education in Kinvara.  Jane Joyce of the Parents Committee told The Connacht Tribune that they had presented the nuns with information which also had been sent to the Department justifying the need for a secondary school in Kinvara.

 

After a lengthy meeting at which various arguments were made for the continuation of education at Seamount, the nuns gave an undertaking to consider this new information and said that they would return with a decision as a matter of urgency.

Jane Joyce said that she was now more convinced that students would be enrolled this September than before the meeting and paid tribute to the Mercy Sisters for affording them the opportunity to make the relevant arguments.  However, Ms. Joyce said that the situation needed commitments from both sides the nuns and the Government so that second level education can be continued into the future.

 

Junior Minister, Michael Kitt said that providing a new co-educational school in three years would be impossible.  He called on the nuns to continue with the education process until the new school is provided.

Fine Gaels Deputy Ulick Burke believes that there is no commitment on the part of the Government to provide a new school and are using the delicate situation to opt out.

 

Connaught Tribune 16th February 2007.

 

Parents spell out crisis on student numbers but Dept and Sisters hold positions

 

There was dismay at the public meeting held in Kinvara on Friday night in the ongoing campaign to Save Seamount College. 

The disappointment centred on a letter and an email concerning the colleges future.  They came from the Department of Education and Science and the Sisters of Mercy Congregation Western Province The Trustees of Seamount College.

 

The case for the continuation of Seamount was presented by the Save Seamount College Committee.  They set out the facts of the prospective numbers of secondary students form the area of South Galway and North Clare, which they had submitted to the Department of Education and Science last November.  These made a compelling argument for the maintenance and expansion of second level education at Kinvara and an imminent crisis in second level education was forecast as a result, if the emerging figures were ignored, according to the parents. 

 

Jerry Keusch, Chairman, Parents Council, told the meeting that the retention of Seamount College was the only viable option.  As parents they would not accept the bussing of their children out of the area.  The Mercy Sisters ethos burned brightly in the school and the Sisters had a duty to pass on that flame for others to carry on that tradition.  Yet the Sisters of Mercy in Ballinasloe were determined to close Seamount College, he said.  They were not allowing enrolments in 2007, had replaced the Board of Management with a manager, and were preventing the handling on of the school to any other body.

He went on to identify the ownership of Seamount as being at the root of the problem.  The Sisters of Mercy did not have the moral title to the school, he said.  He posed questions as to what was behind the Sisters refusal, was the Seamount site security for other liabilities that had the power to resolve the crisis.

We do not accept that the Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin, had no responsibility in this matter.  Political will is the key to this crisis.  If the political will is there, Minister Hanafin can resolve it.  We need Minister Treacy and his colleagues to go back and prevent the crisis in education in this area.  There are no votes in this constituency for promises, for support, for appeals, or for ongoing negotiations.  But there are votes for maintaining Seamount College for the people of South Galway and North Clare he said.

 

Members of the Seamount Parents Council said they were bewildered and frustrated at the response of the Department of Education to their submission setting out figures and facts collected and analysed.  The submission set out clearly the population growth according to the 2002-2006 Census Report; the primary school enrolments in the Seamount catchments area; the secondary school enrolment in Seamount, Gort Community School and Calasanctius College, Oranmore, as provided by the Department of Education, and the planning applications granted within the catchments area, and land zoned for residential use.

In brief, the submission listed evidence of the population growth between 2002-2006 in Kinvara, Gort, and Oranmore, showing an increase of 8% per year (30% over four years).  Within and bordering Seamounts catchments area, Primary School enrolment increased by 7% per year.  Secondary School enrolment in South Galway grew by 4% per year and is now beginning to accelerate. 

The submission makes startling conclusions regarding South Galways schools capacity. As of September 2006, the enrolments of Seamount (243) were short of capacity (300); of Gort (738) short of capacity (800) and of Calasanctius (708) in excess of capacity (625).  In total therefore, enrolments were 1689 for a capacity of 1725. 

Using the 7% per year population growth rate as a guide, if Seamount College remains open in 2012, the South Galway total shortfall in desk capacity will be 810.  If Seamount were to close, there would be a shortfall of 1,100 in desk capacity.

 

However, in a letter to John Britton of the Seamount Parents Council, dated February 9th, 2007, he Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education and Science, Frank Wyse, referred to the submission but said Seamount was to close and the areas pupils could attend Gort Community School.  This is the letter, which arrived on Friday, the day of the meeting:

I refer to your submission relating to the retention of a second level school at Kinvara, County Galway following the decision by the Trustees of Seamount College to phase out progressively their involvement in second level education in the area.

The Trustees have confirmed their intention to close the school and have recently reaffirmed to the Department that the closure will be on a phased basis and will commence in September 2007, with all students in junior cycle being given an option of proceeding to senior cycle, including the opportunity to avail of a transition year.  The Trustees have also confirmed directly to the Department that the current site at Seamount College will not be available for the provision of post-primary education once Seamount College Closes. Having considered the immediate implications of the decision by the Sisters of Mercy, I wish to confirm that the Department will facilitate the enrolment in Gort Community School of students from the Kinvara area by changing the existing catchment area.  To facilitate an increase in enrolments at Gort Community School any additional accommodation for the school will be treated as a matter of priority by the Department.  The Department will now discuss the position with the authorities of Gort Community School with a view to agreeing the extent of the additional accommodation required to cater for the Kinvara students in the short and medium term.  The Department will also be reviewing the overall accommodation requirements at post-primary level in the South Galway area to identify what additional provision is required in the longer term. 

 

I hope this clarifies the position

 

Ms. Eileen Mulkerrins, Principal, told the meeting that Seamount would remain until 2012 and that it was an absolute that Seamount would not be a school after 2012.  The Trustees had confirmed that there would be no admissions to Seamount College in September 2007 and thereafter.

On Thursday, February 8th, 2007, Sister Margaret Casey, Western Province, Sisters of Mercy Congregation, set out for Ms. Mulkerrins their current position and advised that she would not be attending the public meeting in Kinvara.  She wrote in e-mail:

 

With reference to the email received, we have no plans to admit students to Seamount College, Kinvara in September 2007 or thereafter.  This was stated to the Board of Management and publicly in October 2006 and has been clarified and restated on several occasions since.  The public statement was issued with the support of the Department of Education and Science.  In regard to your question on the future of Seamount College, we wish to confirm that the school will close, that there will be no further intake of students beyond the current cycle and the school will not be available for the provision of post primary education after it closes.

We wish to let you know that we recently received a letter from the Minister of Education and Science authorising the appointment of the Manager of the school.

Thanks for the invitation to attend the meeting on February 9th.  As we have nothing further to add to the statement already issued, we have decided not to attend.

 

Ms. Mulkerrins told the meeting that Seamount had always held onto the traditions of the school set up on September 24th1922, when twelve pupils were first enrolled there.

The closure will be an enormous loss to the community she concluded.

 

Mr. John Sweeney, teacher at Seamount, assured the parents that the staff would not turn their backs on education at Seamount.  We are 100% behind this campaign and no teacher will leave Seamount just because of the announcement of closure made on October 10th he said.

Mr. Pat King, Deputy Secretary General, A.S.T.I. decried the absence of a consultation prior to the announcement of closure, as an alternative could have emerged from consultation.  The Seamount Trustees had informed the Department of Education and Science, Planning and Building Unit in April 2006 that they were considering the future of Seamount.  He said the Department official didnt have their own figures.  They didnt know of the population growth in South Galway.  They only had the Parents Council Figures.

Mr. King said: They say the Minister for Education and Science has approved the disbandment of the Board of Management, but theres no evidence that she has done so.  It comes down to the Ministers decision.  If the Minister agrees that a Secondary School in the area, Trustees will be found.  I predict that in seven years time a new second level school will be built.  At the A.S.T.I. Conference in April, Seamount will be number one priority for the A.S.T.I., he concluded.

Mr. Iain OBrien, Parents Council and Parents Representatives, Board of Management, told the meeting that under the Freedom of Information Act, a request for information to the Department revealed that the Department knew all along of the proposal to close Seamount and had allowed the Sisters of Mercy to go ahead and install a manager.  They now intended to break-up the Seamount catchment area.

Our children will be bussed to Gort and will be accommodated in temporary accommodation for seven to ten years he said.

Ciara Reddy, student, gave an account of what it was like to be a student at Seamount College.

 

 

Connacht Tribune 01st February 2007.

 

 

Seamount Parents Set Out Their Case

 

The increasing enrolment figures of primary and secondary schools in the greater South Galway area over the last five years confirm that an educational crisis is inevitable, if the Department of Education and Science allows the proposal to close Seamount College, Kinvara, to go ahead.

 

This is the main conclusion of the recently compiled report by the Save Seamount Campaign.  It is given further weight by the prospective population increase to follow the current developments in the areas infrastructure.  The Kinvara community is not alone in believing that the closure of Seamount College and the loss of some 300 places will have consequences only for the Kinvara area.  The loss will extend to the wider South Galway area.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) 2006 data, and enrolment figures collected from primary and secondary schools in the area, were used by Save Seamount Campaign in the preparation of its report.  It establishes that the rate of population growth and pupil enrolment has been at least 7% year-on-year over the last five years.  The report clearly demonstrates that to close Seamount College would adversely affect the nearest secondary schools, in Gort and Oranmore, both of which are at or near capacity.  Add into the equation the forecasted 7% growth with the closure of Seamount College and we have a very real and very immediate educational crisis.

What does this mean on the ground?  The report concludes that in three years time if Seamount College is allowed to close, some 800 children from the South Galway area will be without secondary school places!

 

The Save Seamount Campaign believes that retaining and developing Seamount College, Kinvara as a quality, co-educational school is the answer to South Galways educational crisis.  It would be crazy for the Department of Education and Science to close this school and leave our children crammed into huge overcrowded schools.  The report also highlights the merits of the education and ethos of Seamount College and the expectation that the local community of South Galway have with respect to the provision of a high quality secondary schooling in the area.  Save Seamount Campaign believes that what the Kinvara community and indeed the entire South Galway area needs is a decisive action by Minister Hanafin to retain and develop Seamount College. This will help avert a serious educational crisis that is looming here in South Galway.

 

The facts are that, currently in South Galway there are 1,725 places available in secondary schools (Calasanctus College, Oranmore, Gort Community School and Seamount College, Kinvara).  This will be reduced to only 1,425 if Seamount College is allowed to close.  Using the growth rate demonstrated in the 2006 Census Report from the Central Statistic Office, it is predicted that there will be over 2,200 children needing secondary school places in three years time.

Calasanctius College in Oranmore, opened last November by Minister Hanafin was built to accommodate 625 pupils.  Today it has an incredible 708 students enrolled.  Oranmore is expected to grow from its present population of 6,000 to 11,000 people over the next five years.

 

Gort Community School was designed to cater for 600 pupils and subsequently had classrooms added to cater for 800 pupils.  It presently has 734 students.  For Gort Community School to cater for their own forecasted growth and if you factor up to 1,200 places will be required by 2010, only three years away.

 

Save Seamount Campaign see no merit in the solution offered to the closure of Seamount.  It is to move the children from a school acknowledged as one of the best in the country to temporary accommodation in schools that are already at or very near capacity.  Is this fair on any of the children of South Galway, the group asks?

 

They explain that to lose Seamount College, a quality school with an existing educational infrastructure, will be a catastrophe not just for the Kinvara catchment area but also for the wider South Galway area.

In light of the fact that in 2010 there will be 504 children in the Kinvara catchment area looking for secondary education, they wish to know what realistic and viable plan Minister Hanafin and the Department of Education and Science have made for the provision of their education.

 

 

Parents Warn of Crisis in Education over Closure

 

Parents who are fighting the threatened closure of Seamount College in Kinvara, warned in a detailed statement this week on the consequences of closure.

 

They said there would be a crisis in education in the area with hundreds of youngsters left short of second level education within a few short years.

 

The Save Seamount Campaign warned that the increasing enrolment figures of primary and secondary schools in the greater South Galway area over the last five years, confirmed that an educational crisis was inevitable, if the Department of Education and Science allowed the proposal to close Seamount College, Kinvara to go ahead.

 

The campaign asked that Seamount be allowed to enroll students in September 2007 if that crisis was to be avoided the Sisters of Mercy last year announced they intended to close Seamount and they did not make provision for the election of a new Board of Management, Parents have been campaigning since.  The impending crisis was the main conclusion of the recently compiled report by the Save Seamount Campaign.  Their figures were given further weight by the prospective population increase to follow the current developments in the areas infrastructure.  The Save Seamount College Campaign said that South Galways population was set to expand, yet, as the Save Seamount Campaign see the issue, a quality school of the caliber of Seamount College, Kinvara, is being allowed to close.

 

If the spatial strategy favoured by our Government is bringing exponential growth to South Galway through the development of the Atlantic Corridor and the N18 roadway, the Save Seamount Campaign contend that it is essential that they make provision for the education of the population that follows.  Save Seamount Campaign said it believed that the Kinvara community and indeed the entire South Galway area needed decisive action by Minister Hanafin to retain and develop Seamount College.

This was a quality-of-life issue, the Save Seamount Campaign said, and it was relevant to everyone, As parents and educators, the Save Seamount Campaign wished to be part of all decisions that had an impact on the education of the children.  Decisions involving children must put the childs needs as its primary consideration.  As parents, teachers and pupils, they had considered this issue and believed that it was essential that Seamount College was retained and developed as a co-educational school for all the children.  Our children are the key to our future, and education is the key to theirs, the statement said.

Connaught Tribune January 19th 2007.

 

Kenny to push on school closure

 

Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny, T.D. last week assured parents and pupils at Seamount College, Kinvara that he would pursue the matter of retaining second level education in Kinvara, as a matter of urgency, with the Minister for Education, Mary Hanifin, T.D.

Deputy Kenny visited Seamount on Friday on the invitation of

Senator Ulick Burke.  The purpose of the visit was to enable the Fine Gael Party Leader to see for himself this first class education facility which is now under threat of closure.

Senator Burke introduced Deputy Kenny to Ms. Eileen Mulkerrins, (Principal), and representatives of the Board of Management, Parents Council, students and the teaching staff.  Also present were, Dail Deputy, Paul Connaughton, Councillor Peter Feeney and Councillor Bridie Willers.

What was most impressed on the Fine Gael Party Leader was the importance of retaining second level education in Kinvara. 

Deputy Kenny stated that the ultimate responsibility for the provision of second level education for the children of Kinvara and district lay with the Minister for Education.  He gave assurance that Senator Burke and Deputy Paul Connaughton would continue to pursue the issue at Oireachtas level.

 

Senator Burke pointed out that it was vitally important that the Minister for Education should enter into negotiations with the Western Province of the Order of Mercy with a view to making sure that Seamount College would enrol students in September 2007.

Senator Burke called on the Department of Education to put in place an interim lease or other short term arrangement until such time as a permanent solution was found which continues permanent second level education in the Kinvara area.

 

Fine Gael Leader, Deputy Kenny, together with the other public representatives were brought on a tour of Seamount College.  They were entertained by the students of the Music Class and were served refreshments.

 

Anger and Dismay as Parents and Teachers Learn of Close School Plan

 

The East Galway T.Ds and Senators, together with local County Councillors, stepped up the mark at Fridays public meeting in Seamount College, Kinvara, to assure the large attendance of their support in the campaign to prevent the proposed closure of this all-girls secondary school.

At the meeting, organised by Seamounts Parents Council and attended by over 400 adults from the areas of South Galway and North Clare, the expressed motives of the Sisters of Mercy Trustees for closing Kinvaras prestigious secondary school were analysed and found to be inadequate.

The Ballinasloe-based Sisters of Mercy Trustees had on Thursday afternoon dropped the bombshell of the closure proposal for Seamount.

The unexpected announcement caused shock and anguish for the students, staff, Board of Management and parents.  A subsequent statement from a public relations company on behalf of the Mercy Sisters seemed to cause further bewilderment and confusion.

 The Sisters of Mercy Trustees, Western Province, kept their decision under wraps until last Thursdays meeting of Seamounts Management Board which the Trustees had called, by letter dated 30th October.  Its purpose was declared to be a follow-up to the strategic review of the school.  It is understood that the Management Board had not been previously apprised of any such review.  But at Thursdays meeting one of the three Trustees present, set out in a prepared statement, the new status of Seamount.

 

That statement announced the Closure of Seamount.

 

The Board of Management members were perplexed and shocked.  They were dissatisfied with the answers given to their questions, knowing that its immediate effect would be the cancellation of Seamounts Open Day for new pupils in early December 2006.

The announcement also contained notice of the abolition of the Board of Management and replacement by a School Manager.  The Manager would hold that position until Seamount was finally closed down for good.

Gerry Keusch, Chairman who invited Sister Pius, one of the three Sisters of Mercy at Seamount (the others being Sister Berchmans and Sister Caoimhn) to say a prayer and make a statement on their behalf, declared the purpose of the meeting as To save our school from closure.

Sr. Pius speaking of their shock at hearing the news said they had not been consulted.  They were well aware of the educational work at Seamount since its foundation in 1922 and felt sorry for the teachers, parents, students and the Parents Council.

Mr. Keusch, inviting Ms. Eileen Mulkerrin, Principal, to address the meeting, paid tribute to her handling of the situation.  Ms. Mulkerrin referred to the reasons given by the Trustees for deciding to close Seamount College namely (1) Seamounts facilities were inadequate, (2) Seamount needed a broad curriculum, (3) Seamounts enrolment was too small, and many of Seamounts pupils came from outside the area.

By the time Ms. Mulkerrin had completed the enumeration of the list of facilities at Seamount and the extra-curricular activities engaged in from public speaking to sport it was patently clear to the meeting why Seamount was so popular with parents.  It confirmed that people settle down in Kinvara and surrounding regions in order, amount other reasons, to send their daughters to Seamount.

Ms. Mulkerrin told the meeting that the Department of Education and Science had not responded to the Seamounts application for an upgrade of Seamounts facilities.  She mentioned that Seamount was one of the highest performing schools, with one exam student achieving 700 points last year and another student 600 points.

In the case of students coming from outside the area, Ms. Mulkerrin emphasised the importance of choice in education, saying that nationwide, 50% of the students attending schools coming within the management umbrella of JMB, went to school outside their area.  Ms. Mulkerrin said that Seamounts staffs were immersed in the ethos of the school.  Parents valued the ethos of the school.  They worked in partnership for the success of this all girls school.  Ms. Mulkerrin told the meeting that it was Seamounts intention to come under the trusteeship of the Catholic Education for Irish Schools Trusts (CEIST).  The announcement of Seamounts closure prevented that happening.

Gerry Keusch, Chairman, pointed out to the meeting that the Parents Council had for the last two years sought to have a voluntary contribution applied to Seamount College.  The Trustees turned it down, he said.  This day is day one of our campaign to save our school from closure he declared.  This school was rated a top school in the Irish Times Survey of Schools 2004 said Ian OBrien, Parents representative, Board of Management.  There are Grade A teachers here and a Grade A Principal.  The reason for closure is certainly not the one we were given.  Whatever is the reason, it is not numbers.  Politicians are the only people to help us save this good school, he said.

On the same day as the announcement in Seamount, Sr. Margaret Casey, Provincial, Sisters of Mercy, Caoineas, Society Street, Ballinasloe, in a letter to East Galway Oireachtas Members, dated Thursday 12th October 2006, outlined the Mercy Sisters account of events and of the decision for Seamount Colleges closure.  The Mercy Sisters did not take the closure decision on their own.  That the Trustees decision to close Seamount was taken in consultation with the Department of Education and Science was stated in a media statement from the Mercy Sisters issued on Friday by PR Company, Young Communications.

In reply to a media query on Friday, Margaret McCarthy, Press Office, Department of Education and Science, clarified the position regarding Seamounts closure.  This reply was broadcast on Galway Bay FM.  At the public meeting on Friday it was pointed out that there was a big difference between the enrolment figure quoted in that reply for Seamount and the actual number.

This was the Departments response:

The Department was formally notified this week by the Patron Body, the Sisters of Mercy of their intention to close the school.  This process will commence in September 2007 and will be finalised when the current cohort of students complete their Leaving Certificate.  The school is a voluntary secondary school and decisions such as these are within the remit of the Patron Body.  Current enrolment at the school is in the region of 150 students.  The Department is examining the implications of the closure with a view to ensuring that the educational needs of the children in the area continue to be met.

 

 

Check out the full story on this coverage of the proposed closure of Seamount College Kinvara in the Connacht Tribunes edition of October 20th 2006.