Key educational centre set for County Limerick

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

ALTHOUGH the hub of the new joint local authority will be in the heart of the city, it looks likely a key educational centre will move out.

ALTHOUGH the hub of the new joint local authority will be in the heart of the city, it looks likely a key educational centre will move out.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is seeking to abolish vocational education committees in the country, and replace them with Educational Training Boards.

The VECs play a key role in administering courses in adult education, outreach to youth facilities, and serve the needs of school refusers.

Each VEC has different functions - in Clare, for example, it is responsible for administering the school transport scheme.

Educational centres under their administration include the Youthreach project in O’Connell Avenue, and secondary schools, including Castletroy College.

This creation of the Educational Training Boards will effectively see the administration of functions in Clare, Co Limerick and the City centralised into one group.

The City VEC is based in a building it owns in Cecil Street.

The County VEC is located in Marshal House, Dooradoyle, a rented new-build facility.

Meanwhile, Clare’s VEC is currently based in Ennis.

Despite the protestations of many city and Clare councillors - including Fianna Fail’s Kieran O’Hanlon - it now looks likely the new headquarters will be in Dooradoyle.

The head of the new educational training board will be Sean Burke, the current CEO of the County VEC.

It is for this reason Cllr O’Hanlon, a former chair of the city board, believes a decision has been taken to remove the board from the city.

But the chairperson of the County VEC, Cllr Mary Jackman believes Marshal House in Dooradoyle is well located.

“When we are talking about amalgamation, the most important aspect is that we have premises which are obviously beneficial to people from all across the county. From that perspective, I believe it is easier here,” she said of Dooradoyle.

The vice-chair of the county committee Cllr Michael Sheahan expects a final decision to be made on the location by spring.

Currently, the VECs in Clare, Co Limerick and Limerick City have around 17 members apiece.

They are responsible for framing policy, and acting as a watchdog to the scheme.

Cllr Sheahan believes that this number will be reduced by two-thirds to create a board of just 17 members.

He said he is “fairly confident” Marshal House will be the location.

“Logically speaking for those coming from Clare, it is just off the motorway,” he said.

But Cllr Sheahan also pointed out Marshal House is shared with an education centre, which provides back-up services to county Limerick schools.

Asked if he feels one board administering educational programmes in two counties is too many, he added: “It is a huge area in terms of geography, but in terms of numbers, the County Limerick VEC is by far the biggest one. There are not that many schools in the city or Clare which need administering, to be honest.”