Jumping through hoops to save a doomed boarding school. By turning it into a coed day school…

Cistercian College in Roscrea is to remain open against the odds after the trustees of the historic boarding school voted in favour of a rescue package put together by parents and past-pupils. More than €1.5 million to cover the fee-paying school’s operating shortfall and help it become financially independent into the future has been pledged.

The decision to reverse last month’s closure revelation was made by the Cistercian Order, led by Abbot Dom Richard Purcell, after an intensive campaign led by a specially-formed action group which concentrated on coming up with funding to plug an operating shortfall, as well as new ideas to boost pupil numbers.

The Co Offaly boarding school will, from September, be accepting day-boarders (who will go home every night) and five-day boarders for the first time in its 112 year-history. While a suggestion from some quarters to enrol girls has not yet been acted upon, it is likely that this will happen in the years to come.

Irish Times

If boarding is unsustainable, it’s unsustainable, whatever the good intentions

We at Boarding Concern have witnessed so many boarding schools close down in recent years.

Even schools once thought of as the finest in England have closed. Boarding is no longer sustainable for a number of reasons. Parents want to raise their child at home, not in a loveless institution. The number of reported abuse cases in boarding schools is on the increase and set to increase further, following recent cases and inquiries. School fees are pricing UK families out of the market. At the same time, no amount of cosmetic changes will prevent Boarding School Syndrome

That said, it is always traumatic when schools close. Following the announcement, an action committee forms and raises funds. We have seen that everywhere. But in the end, saving the school usually proves impossible as it is no longer sustainable, for a variety of reasons.

‘Incredible progress’ claimed in campaign to save Roscrea boarding school

In Loco Parentis: portrait of a school that misses its subjects

The prep school seems to belong to an era when children were escorted by successive wet nurses and nannies for brief, infrequent inspections by their parents, before being packed off to school, and finally dispatched to the frontline of some far-flung colonial conflict, from whence they might never return.

Thus, it comes as something as a shock to discover that Headfort School, nestling just outside Kells in Co Meath, continues to board children as young as seven. After all, most right-thinking, modern parents would not willingly miss out on the formative years between seven and 12, right?

This anachronistic notion becomes an unaddressed elephant in the room for this warm, unquestioning portrait of the school. This is not, perhaps, the uncritical film we might have expected from director Neasa Ní Chianáin, whose investigation of the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh was so meticulously calibrated.

The Irish Times

Future of Catholic boarding schools threatened

The future of the Catholic boarding school sector faces a serious threat in a changed Ireland, following the closure of Cistercian College Roscrea, which has been described as “a very sad death knell”.

The announcement of the closure of the college, at Mount St Joseph Abbey in Co. Offaly, means there are now just two Catholic schools offering all boarding for boys in Ireland. These are the Jesuit Clongowes Wood College in Co. Kildare and the Benedictine Glenstal Abbey in Murroe, Co. Limerick.

Two other Catholic schools, Dublin’s Blackrock College and Rockwell College in Co. Tipperary, mix boarders with day pupils.

This is in stark contrast to the 1990s when there were over 30 Catholic schools offering boarding for boys – 20 being diocesan colleges.

Dom Richard Purcell, Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey said the decision to close was “extremely difficult” but the school “is simply no longer financially viable”. “The school has witnessed a 45% drop in enrolment in the past 10 years with just nine 1st Year students enrolled for September 2017. Clearly this is unsustainable.”

The Irish Catholic

Parents told to examine options for Cistercian College Roscrea

Suggestions to save school include five-day boarding, day pupils and admission of girls

Parents of students at Cistercian College Roscrea have been asked to come up with “options” to keep the Co Offaly boarding school open.

The Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey, home to the 167-pupil college, has agreed to give full consideration to any viable proposal which parents can come up with regarding the future of the school.

The news came after a meeting on Tuesday between the abbot, Dom Richard Purcell, and representatives of the Cistercian College Parents’ Association.

The meeting follows last Friday’s announcement by the trustees of the college that declining pupil numbers had made the institution’s financial position unsustainable and that the college would close within the next two years.

The Irish Times

Denial won’t save Irish boarding school from closure.

Boarding schools are not “families” or “communities”. They are institutions. And now the school blaming starts. The closure communications (as reported) were crystal clear…

“Parents opposed to the closure of Cistercian College in Roscrea will meet to explore avenues which could be taken to keep the famous boarding school open.

“Heartbreak” was the reaction, said the parents’ association, when the news broke on Friday that the Cistercian order had decided to close the school because of falling student numbers. There are currently 167 pupils according to the school, which is located at Mount St Joseph Abbey in Co Offaly.

Association chairperson Sinead Lawlor said relations and communications between the Cistercians, including Abbot of Mount St Joseph Richard Purcell, have always been good.

But she said that in this instance, there has been “an unfortunate gap in that communication“.

Many parents didn’t find out about the decision until they went to collect their boys on Friday, she said.

“CCR is another family for them (the pupils). The teachers and support staff are all family to them and treated them as their own kids. The boys are like brothers to each other. It’s very, very understandable that this comes as a massive shock,” she said.”

Irish Independent

Irish boarding school to close due to fall in numbers

One of Ireland’s best known boarding schools, Cistercian College Roscrea, is set to close after 112 years due to a significant fall off in student numbers.

The Co Offaly boys’ boarding school, located at Mount St Joseph Abbey, said there had been “a general decline in demand for boarding facilities”.

The school said there had been a 45 per cent drop in enrolment in the past decade with just nine first-year students enrolled for September of this year.

“Clearly this is unsustainable and the school is simply no longer financially viable. We were sadly left with no option but to conduct what we anticipate will be a phased closure of the school over the next 16 months,” said Abbot of Mount St Joseph Abbey Richard Purcell.

The Irish Times

Are boarding schools… Really a home from home?

They are keen to distance themselves from the bleak educational gulags of the past, but parents’ confidence in boarding schools has been severely shaken by recent reports of an alleged [sexual] assault at the King’s Hospital school. Do these institutions offer a suitable environment for young people to grow up in?

So asks the Irish Independent in an analysis of boarding.

The broadcaster Ivan Yates once said of his boarding school experience that “terror mixed with homesickness” led him to cry himself to sleep, night after night.

The modern Irish boarding school is keen to present a more humane image than that of the bleak educational gulags suffered by Yates and many of his contemporaries in the late 1960s and early 70s.

The advocates of modern boarding institutions insist that they are ideal places for young people to grow up in. Often situated in fine rambling country houses or castles along tree-lined avenues, boarding schools supposedly offer their students the opportunity to spend all of their time with friends, playing games and taking part in spiffing Harry Potter-style adventures.

In this idealised world, presented in some of the school brochures, living in one of these institutions is like having a five-year sleepover – the only difference being that you are not at home.

Their apologists will tell you that they teach children independence and self-reliance.

The children may be homesick at first, but the parents are reassured that the offspring will get over it.

Most of Ireland’s 29 boarding schools have gone to strenuous lengths to present a more homely atmosphere: the cold, spartan dormitories with row upon row of steel beds have been thoroughly revamped, and the modern-day resident can expect much more than a breakfast of lumpy gruel.

The article goes on to quote Prof Joy Schaverien at length:

To hand over your boy or girl to the care of teachers or other supervisors, who are often complete strangers, for most of their teenage years, requires a remarkable level of trust, according to critics of the boarding-school environment.
Read more: Panti Bliss on his boarding schools experience: ‘Abusers were probably wary of mouthy kids like myself’

“You send a child to boarding school and they are left to the vagaries of whoever happens to be taking care of them, and the group of children they are with,” psychotherapist Joy Schaverien tells Review.

“They might be lucky and have a lovely group of children and kind adults; or they could be exposed to highly disturbed people, and there is nobody there to protect them.”

Schaverien, a therapist based in England, came up with the term ‘Boarding School Syndrome’ to describe a set of lasting psychological problems that are observable in adults who, as children, were sent away from their home to boarding schools.

Symptoms, according to Schaverien, may include problems with anger, depression, anxiety, failure to sustain relationships, and fear of abandonment.

“The child learns not to cry because they don’t get a normal response.
“Usually, when they are at home, a child gets a loving response, but that may not happen, so they learn not to show emotion. In later life that can show up in a lack of empathy.”

Much of the therapist’s work is based on younger children going to boarding school, but she believes it can also have a dire effect when a child is 12 or 13.

“It depends how vulnerable the child is. At puberty, children still need to have loving adults around them and education in emotional relationships.”

Irish Independent

Gardaí investigate alleged sex assault at boarding school

Gardaí investigating an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at an exclusive boarding school are trying to piece together what occurred and who might have been involved.

It is alleged that a 13-year-old pupil of The King’s Hospital school was subjected to a sexual attack involving a hockey stick.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that eight pupils were allegedly involved.

Detectives are looking for witnesses at the west Dublin co-ed school to come forward and are investigating if any similar alleged attacks occurred to other young boys.

Irish Examiner

Irish Independent