After 171 years of service to the town and region of Mallow, County Cork, the oldest national school in the vicinity – the Church of Ireland National School – will close on Friday next 27th June. The allocation by the Department of Education and Skills of a new primary school to the patronage of the Cork Education and Training Board made it inevitable that the Church of Ireland school would not be given a new building in the same area to meet its own growing needs. The pupils of the Church of Ireland schools will be accommodated in that new school.
Mallow (Number 1) National School (as the Church of Ireland School is known) was founded in 1843, the first of its kind in Mallow. It was established on the model envisage in the so-called Stanley Letter of the British Government in 1831 – a multi-denominational school. Today there are 63 pupils at the school comprising 18 different nationalities. The oldest surviving past-pupil is Mary Coulter (now 99 years old), and one of the school’s well-known alumni is Dr Margaret Bolster, Assistant State Pathologist.
Bishop Paul Colton will visit the school for the last time on Wednesday next 25th June. A formal school photograph will be taken. The Bishop will then ask the children and teachers to gather up symbols of the school’s history and life – the school bell, the roll books, for example – and to follow him in procession through the town to the the Church of St James, the Church of Ireland Parish Church. There will be a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and history of the school led by the rector Canon Eithne Lynch and presided over by the Bishop. Following open competition, the Principal of the new school will be the current Principal of Mallow (No.1) National School, Mrs Mary O’Riordan.
Partners in education, past-pupils, past principals, past teachers, past-parents/guardians and members of the public are invited to join the current school community for the Service of Thanksgiving which is at 11 a.m. At the end of the Service the school bell will be passed to the Bishop who will entrust it to representatives of the new Community National School.
The patron of the school, the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, said:
In one way it is ironic that the one element of diversity already in primary education in Mallow town – the Church of Ireland National School – has to close in order to accommodate the creation of new diversity of patronage of schools in the town. Having decided to offer a new primary school under the patronage of the Cork Education and Training Board, the Department of Education and Skills was not in a position to provide a new school building for the Church of Ireland school which had out-grown its old site in the middle of the town.
Church of Ireland primary schools have been catering for diversity in the Irish Primary school system for generations, so it is a pity that one of the unintended consequences of the policy of diversification of patronage models may be the closure of some of the existing schools supported by minority patronage groups.
That said, pluralism and diversity are the path of both today and the future in Ireland. We have a very good and positive working partnership with the Cork Education and Training Board. As patron, therefore, I was content to encourage and support the instinct of the local Church of Ireland stakeholders and to entrust our future in primary education in the Mallow area to the Cork Education and Training Board. I think, our minority Church of Ireland community have shown courage, foresight and huge generosity of spirit in taking this step.
Canon Eithne Lynch, Rector of Mallow and Chairperson of the Board of Management said:
While the local Church of Ireland community are sad at leaving a school that has served so many generations of the parishioners, past and present, we feel that our children will be better served in the new building that has been planned for Mallow. We have an exceptional group of staff and pupils who will move to the new school in the autumn. Our commitment is to making sure that our children receive the best possible education.