MOVES are being made to stop the “cherrypicking” of students by certain city schools, which has led to a situation where hundreds of local pupils have to seek places in rural schools.
The Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) has put a task force in place to reform the local Common Application System (CAS), which manages the transfer of students from primary to secondary schools.
This came after councillors denounced the system as “unfair and unbalanced”.
Although CAS was set up to stop the “cherrypicking” of students, many members of the LCETB say it still goes on. They have expressed upset at the inclusion of a question on the CAS form around what sports prospective students play.
Cllr Jim Long says this “allows the principals, or heads of sport in the school to say: ‘We are taking him, not on academia, but because he could help our team’.”
The group, set up by the board will seek to have this question removed, and have a fairer system put in place.
And it has not ruled out the removal of the LCETB’s patron schools - Castletroy College, Gaelcholaiste Luimni, Salesian Secondary School and St Nessan’s - from the selection scheme altogether.
At the LCETB meeting, Cllr Long said: “The upset on families [whose children do not get their first choice school] has and is causing immense trauma and long term distress in the family home.”
He said he knows five families, whose children now face a 22-mile round trip to a school at a cost of €900 per school year, when a secondary school is within sight of their own home.
Westbury councillor Cathal Crowe, a sixth class teacher at Parteen NS added: “It is the worst blow a 12-year-old can get to find they have been rejected by the school of their choice. This system was put in place to stop cherrypicking. But the opposite is going on, and this is to their detriment.”
Referring to a girl in his own constituency, he asked: “Why should a kid from Cratloe have to go to a school in Croom, and pass 10 or 11 perfectly good schools along the way: The system has failed them, CAS has failed them.”
The members of the watchdog - Cllr Michael Sheahan, Mary Jackman, Jim Long, Cathal Crowe, Michael Begley, and Linda Ledger of the St Munchin’s Community Centre - will work with LCETB educational officer to get the system changed.
She agreed the system needed to be modified, and suggested a proper feeder-school programme be put in place.
“Schools need to be a reflection of the community they serve. In Limerick, this is not the case at the moment,” she said. All LCETB officials acknowledged the stress of both parents and students.