In November 2018 the Cavan Monaghan Education Training Board made a shock announcement that it will be closing St Bricins College Belturbet and St Mogues College Bawnboy, Co Cavan. In addition they would be building a new school in Ballyconnell, a town without a secondary school. Following public community meetings a mandate was clear from the community that we want to have our schools retained, invested in and sustained not removed. A number of community volunteers formed the Save Our Schools Committee representing St Bricins and the Community of Belturbet. The same happened in Bawnboy on behalf of St Mogues and the volunteers have worked united from the outset to challenge this decision. Below is the activity to date on this matter and documents for community information.
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- November 2018 CMETB announce the school amalgamation in shock announcement. They seek a vote by the CMETB Board and Board of Management of Schools with no feasibility study, no detailed costings or options for retention and investment in existing schools. The governance and accountability of this process is a concern.
- December 2018 Bawnboy community host a public meeting and receive a clear mandate from the community to have St Mogues remain open
- January 2019 Belturbet community host a public meeting and receive a clear mandate from the community to have St Bricins remain open. CMETB invited to attend and they decline stating they would be starting a period of intensive consultation and engagement with stakeholders. This does not happen.
- March 2019 St Mogues Parents Association Bawnboy write to CMETB seeking a meeting to clarify details of the proposal for school amalgamation, they meet with the Chief Executive and clarify that they did not consider the meeting stakeholder engagement and not to be noted by the ETB as such. Despite this CMETB went on to state they had an engagement meeting with the Parents in the local paper.
- April 6th 2019 no contact from CMETB, Save Our Schools Committees write to CMETB seeking engagement following an announcement in the local paper by CE CMETB that a feasibility report would be commissioned with the assistance of “a professional design team of engineers and quantity surveyors” and would include costings. Of note the feasibility study was requested by the Department of Education and Skills given it was not in place prior to announcing the proposal.
- April 8th CMETB confirm a meeting would occur with the committees after Easter and also advised that a number of meetings were progressing with stakeholders in West Cavan. Given this did not include the Save Our Schools Committees for St Bricins or St Mogues or the Parents Association or students we sought clarification on who the stakeholders were. To date this information has been withheld. In addition the CMETB maintain they had agreement to meet with a committee member in Belturbet in December 2018, when ask for the name of the committee member this is withheld, given the Save Our School Committee in Belturbet did not form until February 2019 this agreement is impossible and was never followed up by the ETB.
- April 14th SOS Committee seek to be part of the tender process of the consultancy who would undertake the feasibility study and to participate in the co-design of the brief, this request was denied by the ETB.
- May – SOS Schools Committees submitted detailed hard copy files to the Minster office for the Department of Education and Skills outlining the schools performance and potential if properly supported.
- May 27th No further contact from the CMTB since the April – SOS committee write again requesting the meeting. CMETB confirm the feasibility report would be available in the coming week and a meeting could be arranged, 6 months after the announcement by the CMETB on their proposal for the school amalgamation and confirmation of €15 million in funding for the DES. Funding which the department is advising has not been allocated.
- 17th June – CMETB send an Architectural Assessment report to SOS Committees, confirming agreement to meet Committee representatives, stipulating only 3-4 persons. A date of the 27th June was proposed in ETB Offices. SOS committee confirm availability meet with ETB the week of the 8th July and suggest a neutral location in a community building. ETB insist the meeting be held in ETB offices in Cavan.
- ETB express “disappointment” at not being able to meet their suggested date, despite it taking several requests from the SOS committee to meet and it taking over 7 months for the ETB to produce any type of feasibility report.
- July – Committee review the content of the Architectural report on St Bricins and St Mogues. Of note it is NOT a robust feasibility report created by a design team of engineers and quantity surveyors as promised. The report uses out of date information from 2011 and has various in accuracies within and is missing several aspects of the building and facilities. The report does not look at the possibilities for the schools and the capacity for enrolment following proper investment and strategy. The SOS Committees are of the opinion that the content of the report is a copy and paste from older reports and this is further supported given no person(s) presented at the schools to conduct the research to complete this report. It is hugely disappointing this is the approach that has been taken and puts into question the entire process for what is a very serious situation.
- 10th July – Given the concerns of the SOS Committees and Parents Association’s, the meeting scheduled for the week of the 11th July had to be postponed and this was communicated to the CMETB with an openness to rescheduling when concerns could be addressed. We have provided CMETB with the detail of the inaccuracies in the report and concerns. This was also provided to Minister Joe McHugh, Department of Education and skills along with other detailed information. To date we have had no response to those retorts.
- 22nd July – Detailed report on the nature of the engagement with the Chief Executive of CMETB and attachments relating to the inaccuracies of the Architectural report have been submitted to the Department of Education and Skills.
- 9th September Cavan Monaghan ETB issue a press release stating the school closures are going ahead and the Department of Education has sanctioned this. There was no contact with the SOS Committee on this announcement.
- 21st October TD Brendan Smith questions Minister Joe McHugh on the schools amalgamation and poor process. Minister McHugh admits the application by CMETB had an urgency placed on it which he asked his department officials not to rush and despite this a letter of approval was issued. Of note there was no ETB Board in place at the time of approval in August 2019.
- 22nd October SOS Committee member provides a presentation to the newly formed CMETB Board members highlighting the error in approach and process to decision taken by the previous Board in November 2018. Following the presentation Board agree an independent review be commissioned to inform their decision making, no further information has been mde available on this review.
An appeal document also submitted in the weeks that followed this presentation. This has been ignored by the Executive of CMETB and Board Chairperson. This appeal had also been submitted to Minister Joe McHugh and the Department, who refuse to discuss our concerns on this matter.
SOS Committees and Parents association remain open to dialogue with the CMETB Board.
Files relating the above
May 2019 File Submitted to the Minister for Education and Skills on St Mogues
Letter in July 2019 to Minster for Department of Education and Skills retorts to CMETB Architectural report.
Press release by CMETB 9th September 2019
Documentation obtained through FOI via Department of Education relating to approved additional accommodation project for St Bricins College in 2013 and correspondence between Cavan Monaghan ETB and Department of Education from 2013 to 2018.
Article in Anglo Celt newspaper 19th February 2021 – Dept ‘prioritise’ finding school merger site | Anglo Celt