Gaelscoil Bhreifne has finally secured a permanent site for its new school and will make the move in September 2018 - achieving a major milestone in the near 25-year lifespan of the co-education, all-Irish primary school.
The school will move from its current location at the former Jackson’s garage premises on Farnham Street in Cavan Town to the former St Clare’s Convent at Tullacmongan. Along with sanctioning the move, the Department of Education has also allocated an additional teacher to the school, elevating it to a three-teacher school.
With greater interest among parents seeking primary education for their children through the medium of the Irish language, Gaelscoil Bhreifne now looks set to double its pupil numbers come the new school year.
“Now that we have the growth in interest in Gaelscoil education in Cavan, the Department can obviously see a huge potential. We have 38 expressions of interest already for September and we haven't even had our Open Day yet! This move we feel will only help increase that further,” parent and board member Michelle Uí Rodáin told The Anglo-Celt.
“All the team is very excited about this and we are really looking forward to developing this school to its full potential and we are dedicated to delivering high-quality education to the children of Cavan into the future,” said Seán Ó Láimhín, chairperson of the Board of Management of Gaelscoil Bhreifne.
Set to undergo significant refitting, the new building will initially comprise four full-sized classrooms, an assembly hall, learning support room, library and office.
Complete with integrated systems supporting the latest in interactive learning, the school will also incorporate a multi-sensory room to cater for children with special needs.
Phase One of the move will also see the development of a naíonra or Irish pre-school, as well as safe and secure play facilities outside and traffic management provisions.
The naíonra is set to open on a pilot basis from March and, combined, the developments are seen as a significant boost ahead of the Gaelscoil hosting its official Open Days on February 13-14.
Starting out in 1995 out of four prefab buildings on a site rented from the local Scouting Den, it wasn't until 2012 that Gaelscoil Bhreifne moved to more structured accommodation at Farnham Street.
The search for the new location was, admittedly, partially motivated by the sale of the school site, after the current premises was sold in the near €3 million deal, which saw a Dublin-based investor fund snatch-up a large swathe of commercial property right in the centre of Cavan Town.
“With the new site coming available, along with our growing numbers, the move seemed an opportunity too good to pass up,” Ms Uí Rodáin explained.
The 15-year lease of the former convent will require 'Change of Use' permission but the Board of Management sees this as the next step in their ambitious plan to develop Gaelscoil Bhreifne as one of the largest in the region over the coming years.
Ms Uí Rodáin paid particular tribute to the school's Board of Management, past and present, as well as the students themselves who together have been a driving force behind the success to date.
“There are families who have travelled the journey every step of the way with Gaelscoil Bhreifne, who now have children who have themselves become teachers and come back and they've done teaching experience here. There are a whole generation of kids who have gone through it, in spite of temporary accommodation, small teacher numbers, and all the rest,” said Ms Uí Rodáin.
She told the Celt: “This is now just reward for a lot of people who've worked so hard down through the years to try and grow the school. Their efforts have been the foundation of what is set to be achieved.”
She adds that, to get where it is today, Gaelscoil Bhreifne has overcome significant adversity, much based on misinformation and commonly held fears among adults over their native language.
False information that the school is fee-paying or that parents must speak Irish themselves in order to send their children, along with confusion over its multi-denominational ethos, have all been readily dealt with.
“Our kids in the gaelscoil speak Irish, and English as well. They're taught grammar and spelling, and phonics like every other child in the country is in English, but it’s the day-to-day stuff, 'pull out your chair', 'how are you today?'. It’s not learning things by rote, it’s immersing children in the language.
“We say if people have bad memories of the Irish language, this is a whole new way of learning,” said Ms Uí Rodáin.