History of the School

Model schools

In 1831, an educational system was set up in Ireland. One of its main aims was to provide trained teachers to work in the new national schools. The idea was that able pupils would be encouraged to stay at national school as monitors and train under an experienced teacher. Therefore the concept of the ‘model school’ was set up as non-denominational national schools.

athy-model-school-logoWhen the Commissioners of National Education began teacher training, it set up a Central Training Institution in Marlborough Street, Dublin with three central model schools for boys, girls and infants.

In 1834, steps were taken to extend both the model schools and the training establishment. Between 1848 and 1857, other model schools were built in Limerick, Galway, Clonmel, Waterford, Kilkenny, Trim, Dunmanway, Newry, Ballymena, Coleraine, Belfast and of course Athy.

In 1870, the Royal Commission into Primary Education examined the model school system and recommended that the schools should be closed and that the buildings should be used as ordinary locally managed national schools. Teacher training was to move into residential training colleges offering one-two year full time courses and model schools were to be used for teaching practice only.

Athy Model School

In 1848, plans were being made for the Athy District Model School. The Duke of Leinster agreed to lease his land for ‘educational purposes’. On the 26th June 1848, the 99 year lease was drawn up.

In 1850 building began on this Tudor Gothic School at a cost of £8,224.21. It consisted of a male and female school with an adjoining agricultural school, together with a headmaster’s residence and dormitory accommodation for trainee teachers and agricultural schools.

Old Model SchoolThe Model School was officially opened on 12th August, 1852. Mr. John Walshe was principal of the school, assisted by John Henderson and pupil teachers William Patterson and Charles Dodd.

Mrs. Anne O’Reilly was headmistress of the girl’s school, assisted by Bessie Glover and Amelia Craig was headmistress of the infants section, assisted by Mrs. Maguire.

On its first day, 13 boys, 1 girl and 1 infant were enrolled. By the following February, the school had 207 on its register and 281 by September 1853.

In each succeeding year up to 1856, when 567 children were enrolled, the Model School attracted more and more local children to its non-denominational classes.

It achieved its highest enrolment in 1858 when 582 children were listed on the school registers.

In the agricultural school pupils received training in the latest farming methods on the farm attached to the school. This extended to 64 acres in 1855 but was sold by auction when the agricultural school closed in September 1880.

The District Model School remained open but with a reduced number of children on its roles the majority of them now being of the protestant faiths.

By 1881, Mr Patrick Doogan had taken over as principal of the Model School. Mrs. Anne O’Reilly remained as headmistress of the girls’ school and Harriet Souter was in charge of the infants.

In 1901, Mr. Daniel Rice became the new principal of the newly named National Model School. There were six in the family: his wife Margaret, their baby son, a servant Mary Price and two boarders in the school- pupil teachers Cassells Cordner and John English Bolton, both aged 17.

The whole school was re-roofed and decorated in the early 1990s. Due to the deteriorating condition of some of the ‘no longer used’ rooms in the school, and the urgent need for facilities for the V.T.O.S (Vocational Training Opportunity System), an arrangement was reached to accommodate them in the school. They moved into a totally separated area, which included the old ‘turf-room’ and the infant’s extension with the junior play-ground as their entrance and car park.

In 1970, a temporary home was found for the Garda Síochána at the Model School in the old headmaster’s house, and adjoining unused rooms facing the Dublin Road. The gardaí remained there until 1985 when they moved into their newly built premises at the rear of Duke Street.

The Model School building was sadly destroyed by fire in March 2010. Kildare VEC arranged for the immediate accommodation of pupils and staff in a section of the newly built Athy College, in Tomard, on the Monasterevin Road.

In September 2011, pupils and staff moved to what is the new Athy Model School, on the Athy Educational Campus, Tomard, Athy. The Model School shares the campus with Athy College, Gaelscoil Áth Í and Scoil Phádraig Naofa.