Only six students show up for first day back amid fears school will close

Parents in a Co Louth community feel they have been "left with no option" but to remove their children from the local school.

Scoil Náisiunta Bhríde in Faughart, Dundalk reopened its doors on Wednesday and just six students showed up, according to one concerned parent - independent.ie.

Parents are pulling their children out of the school after an inspection report last year made a number of critical findings. A local councillor said the perceived inaction by the Department of Education following the inspection is "part of the problem".

The school's website is "down for maintenance" today following the controversy.

Parents in the area have been left "devastated" by the situation and are now considering sending their children to other schools.

"While each parent registered their wish to stay, the uncertainty that this would bring to their children's lives means that our community will now be dispersed out of the parish and around the town of Dundalk and parts of it's hinterlands," one parent wrote on Facebook.

It follows an inspection by the Department of Education earlier in May which made a number of critical findings.

The department's inspection followed a Whole School Evaluation (WSE) report which was published in March.

Almost 30pc of parents disagreed there was a good atmosphere in the school, according to the report.

While almost 60pc agreed "teaching is good in the school," 27pc disagreed and 10pc said they "don't know".

The department's subsequent report said that action should be taken "as a matter of priority" to "rebuild trust within the school community and to improve enrolment".

Cllr Conor Keelan (FF) is a past pupil of the school and has been liaising with parents in the area.

"There are parents who I know who had been intending to send children there and are no longer going to do so," Cllr Keelan told Independent.ie.

"I’m a past pupil so I am aware of the concerns arriving from the WSE report. As a past pupil, I would be very sad to see it close. The inaction by the Department of Education following the inspection is part of the problem."

The school's Board of Management was dissolved last May and the school patrons, the Archbishop of Armagh, appointed a single manager as a replacement.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said “responsibility for implementing recommendations in an inspection report rest, in the first instance, with the management and patron of a school… Following the completion of the inspection, senior officials from the Department of Education and Skills held a meeting with the school management and the patron of the school concerning the issues identified during the inspection.”

“The patron then began the process to obtain the Minister’s approval to dissolve the board of the school and to appoint a single manager to manage the school on the patron’s behalf however, the board resigned and a single manager was appointed by the patron in June 2017 to manage the school,” the department said.

“It is the responsibility of the manager of the school, acting on behalf of the school’s patron, to take the steps necessary to addresses the issues identified in the inspection report and to ensure that provision in the school is improved.”

“The Department understands that the manager has begun this work, and the Department does not wish to comment further on the steps that the manager is taking in this specific case.”

Scoil Náisiunta Bhríde has not responded to requests for comment.

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