THE news last week that Kilkenny College is to switch to a state-funded model of education has been welcomed as largely positive by the various interested parties.
The school revealed that there had been a huge number of phone calls, from parents of both current and prospective students. Headmaster Ian Coombes said that even just 24 hours after the news had broken, there had been ‘a lot of enquiries’. He confirmed that the school was expecting a rise in applications.
Kilkenny College has 764 students registered this year, 428 of whom are boarders. The maximum capacity, at present, is 800.
In the days following the public announcement, a number of teachers revealed that they had been a little surprised upon hearing it. However, they said they felt it would make their jobs more secure and was good news for the school overall.
Mr Coombes said there had been a certain amount of ongoing consultation.
“We had various discussions with staff at various stages through the year, and then something more specific last December,” he said.
“So they and the Parents’ Association were aware that talks were going on. But there was great relief among staff and the Parents’ Association with the announcement, which was made by our chairman of governors, Brian Thornburgh – a past pupil.”
Students, too, seemed, in positive having been told the news at morning assembly by Bishop of Ossory Michael Burrows.
“There was a great buzz and excitement among pupils, although I don’t know how much of it they understand,” said Mr Coombes.
“In some sense, what’s the difference – they are not paying the bills. But parents – our switchboard has been jammed, they want to know what it will mean exactly. And it’s been positive, because people were worried – ‘can we afford this next year?’ – so there is some relief.”
The Past Pupils’ Association has also greeted the news warmly.
“We welcome the decision, and hope that it will secure the future of Kilkenny College,” said association president Valerie Twomey.
“Ian Coombes and his team have to be congratulated on this.
The school will become the second fee-paying school to make the move to the public system, after Wilson’s Hospital did so in 2011.