A week ago, January 18th, I attended a meeting at Newcestown’s well-appointed Bishop Galvin Central School. By the scheduled start time of 8pm it was already standing-room only, around 200 people packing into the hall/gymnasium.
The outline of their problem is this: A decision has been taken that under the ‘nearest school’ bus-route rule, Newcestown Central School is set to lose up to 40% of its pupils in the coming years. This decision has the potential not just to split families, those with children already attending the Central School but whose younger siblings will now be bussed only to the school nearest them; it also has the potential to split this entire community.
It is a decision that breaks a commitment made over 40 years ago when the Central School was being established. With the promise of better central facilities and free transport, parents agreed to the closure of smaller outlying schools; the former has been delivered, in spades (thanks in the main to the community itself) but now, with this decision, the promise of free transport to the Central School has been broken.
On so many levels, all of which were outlined at the meeting, the decision makes no sense, least of all on the main reason quoted – cost savings, value for money.
Many of those now denied bus transport to the Central School will still qualify for transport to their new schools, in some cases possibly requiring new routes; many of those new schools to which those approximately 80 pupils are sent will now also have to build new classrooms to accommodate the potential new numbers, while classrooms in the better-equipped Central School lie idle.
Greatest potential cost of all however, and the greatest potential loss, is to the community itself.
When whoever it was that made this decision took out their calculators, did they factor in the devastation it was going to cause to the lives of the children, families and community affected? When decisions such as this are made right across all government departments – and they are, at a depressingly frequent rate – is such devastation EVER factored in?
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
The frustration of the parents in that room was palpable. They came for answers from those of us who have declared our intent to run in their constituency (Cork North-West) in the upcoming general election, they came for solutions; they got waffle, including from yours truly – as a wannabe, there is nothing I can do.
Going from pillar to post, trying desperately to find a way to have this decision reversed, trying to get to those who actually MADE the decision, they are playing handball against a haystack, all their efforts frustrated, their energy absorbed by the new great machine where no-one is responsible for anything, no-one can be held accountable as bucks are passed and hands are washed.
The buck SHOULD stop with the Ministers responsible, Jan O’Sullivan and Damien English – can you imagine either of them tolerating this happening in Limerick City or in Meath West? But it’s not in their backyard so they don’t give a damn.
BUSSED OR BUST
We’re back in Newcestown on February 12th for a progress report from all of us as to what we’ve managed to do about this. Two people who were at the meeting on Tuesday evening, and only those two people, can progress this, along with another who sent a message.
Michael Creed, Áine Collins and Jim Daly, Fine Gael TDs all three, are the ones with direct access to those two Ministers. This ball is now in their alley. For the sake of the entire community of Newcestown, I hope they too aren’t reduced to playing their handball against that haystack.
|Those standing are parents of the children affected by the new bus-route rule|