Clonaslee College

History of the School

County Laois Vocational Education Committee made a decision in 1934 to open a Rural School in Clonaslee. In 1935, a site was bought and the building was completed in 1937. The building had two main classrooms, a Domestic Science Room and a Manual Instruction Room. Mr P.D. Brickley was appointed Headmaster and Rural Science Teacher. The school was officially opened on the 11th October 1937 by the Minister for Education, Mr T. O’Derrig, T.D. Seventeen students were enrolled in the school in 1937.

Mr P.D.Brickley : First Principal of Clonaslee College


During the late 1930s and 1940s, the education programme at Clonaslee Vocational School consisted of the Day Continuation School for First and Second Year Boys and Girls and Evening Classes in Domestic Economy, Irish and Woodwork. Students paid fees to attend courses in the Vocational School. County Laois V.E.C. offered a small number of scholarships to attend the school.

To assist in the teaching of Rural Science, a glass-house from Brittas Castle was purchased for the school in 1939. It was purchased after the Castle had burnt down. Instruction and demonstrations were given in the glass-house. The school garden was very much part of the school. The Caretaker was Mr James Young and he worked diligently all-year round in the garden.

During the War Years, 1939-1945, the national aims of self-sufficiency and tillage were reflected in the school curriculum in Clonaslee. A programme was developed to assist students to grow their own vegetables and to provide information to young farmers in tillage farming. Seed-testing and analysis services were provided by the school to the local farmers of the area.

Domestic Economy Evening Classes were popular during the War Years. Miss O’Callaghan was appointed as Domestic Economy Instructress. She provided Emergency food lectures and demonstrations.

Farm Discussion Groups as well as a series of R.D.S. and Barrington Lectures were held in Clonaslee Vocational School in the 1940s and 1950s on topics such as “The Making and Management of Pastures”, “Trees and Tree-Planting in Ireland”, “Education as a Factor in Agricultural Production”, “Farm Buildings”, “Out of Season Grass”, “Fodder Beet”, etc.

A variety of scholarships were awarded to students of Clonaslee Vocational School from the 1940s onwards in Irish, Rural Science, Commerce and Hotel Cookery.

Clonaslee students were frequent winners of the Home Garden Prizes which were awarded each year by County Laois V.E.C. Students, assisted by the Rural Science teacher, were required to cultivate plots at their own homes and grow garden vegetables.

Attendance in the school was poor in September, October and in the Spring-time of each year as many students stayed at home to do farm-work. The Day Vocational Group Certificate syllabus was introduced in 1947. It was designed for students in vocational schools who undertook subjects such as Woodwork, Metalwork, Domestic Economy, Rural Science and Commerce. Gradually parents saw the value of this exam and attendance began to improve. A strong commitment to vocational education developed in the Clonaslee area. The Group Cert became the entry requirement for apprenticeships. Many of the Clonaslee students progressed to apprenticeships with the E.S.B., Bord na Mona, Post and Telegraphs, the Army Training School and the Air Corps.

The school was involved in starting the ICA in the mid-40s. The ICA and Macra na Feirme started the Clonaslee Show in 1948. The Junior Farmers’ Club was established in Clonaslee Vocational School in the early 1950s and carried out a wide-variety of farm and house-related projects, tours, talks, film shows, question-time, etc. Students were interviewed on Radio Eireann about their activities in 1957, students represented the club at Shows, in Competitions, etc. Some members of the Farmers’ Club and Macra na Feirme started the Clonaslee Co-Operative Society in 1963 and established a pig factory station and dairy farm.

In 1955, the Forestry Course began in the school. Clonaslee Vocational School was chosen as it was close to Kinnity Castle which was the Forestry Training School at the time. The trainees travelled by bus each day to Clonaslee and back to Kinnity. They studied Woodwork, Mechanical Drawing, Maths and Rural Science. It continued until 1980 with numbers of up to forty students enrolled each year.

In the 1960s, there was an acute shortage of accommodation in Clonaslee Vocational School and rooms had to be rented in a new house across the road from the school. A Bantile-style building was built in 1967 with three classrooms, one of these rooms was converted into a Science Room.

In 1967, free second level education and free bus transport boosted the numbers in the school. The Intermediate Certificate Exam was offered in Clonaslee in 1968. This led to an increase in the subjects offered to students and included History, Geography, French, Religion, English, Irish, Maths, Science, as well as the traditional practical subjects. Latin was also taught in the school.

Mr Fran Bates became the new principal in 1978 when Mr P.D. Brickley retired. The school got its first computer, an Apple 2 in 1982 and programmes used by the students were “Little Brick Out” and “Animals”. The Outdoor Pursuits’ Centre opened in 1983, it was designed by Mr Des Dillon, retired teacher and Mr Pat McGourty, Woodwork teacher.

The Leaving Certificate was offered to students in 1987. This led to an increase in staff and students. Students were offered Higher Level in eight Leaving Certificate subjects and exam results have been exceptional each year. Prefabs were added, the Outdoor Pursuits’ Centre and local Community Centre were also used by the school.

Transition Year was introduced into the school in 1994. Transition Year activities have included the production of the Student Voice Magazine, Drama Productions, Gaisce, Musical Performances, Art Displays, Public Speaking, Foreign Trips, History, Art and Science Trips, Theatre and Cinema Trips, Mini-Companies, Cookery, Information Technology, Sports’, Fund-Raising, etc.

A number of our student have won first places in Ireland in the Leaving Certificate in Construction Studies and Engineering and have won top places in the Junior Certificate in Woodwork and Metalwork.

The school grew in numbers and there were many successes in extra-curricular activities. Students excelled in hurling and football, winning Leinster and County Titles. The annual Road Race began in the 1980s and became an annual event as did successes in athletics. Girls’ Basketball has been an outstanding success in the school with a number of All-Ireland Titles, All-Ireland Runner-Up Titles, Regional and County Titles. Such successes means that the school is in the A Division.

Students excelled in debating and won the EBS All-Ireland Debating Competition in 1995. Students won BIM Fish Cookery competitions, 2FM Radio Competition, the All-Ireland Forestry Competition, Essay-writing Competitions, Local Heritage Competitions, Mini-Company Competitions, Sci-Fest, Art Competitions, etc.

In 2007, the school was greatly honoured to welcome the President of Ireland, Mrs Mary MacAleese and her husband Martin. Other important guests to the school included the Holocaust survivor, Mr Tomi Reichentahl, World Champion Boxer, Bernard Dunne, All-Ireland Winning Hurler, Brendan Cummins, All-Ireland Winning Footballer, Colm Cooper, etc.

A new school building was opened in 2000 on a site beside the Community Centre. The official opening was carried out by Mr Michael Woods, T.D. and Minister for Education. A name change followed and the school became known as Clonaslee College (Colaiste Chluain na Sli). In 2002, a Metalwork Room was added to the school, Metalwork was added to the Junior Cert curriculum and Engineering to the Leaving Cert curriculum. In 2006, an Art teacher was appointed and Art was added to the Junior and Leaving Cert subject options. An Irish Room and a new extension were opened in 2010, the official opening was carried out by Michael Carruth, the Olympic Gold Medal Winner.

Mrs Noreen Sweeney became the new Principal in 2010 when Mr Fran Bates retired. Enrolment continued to increase with extra teachers being added to the staff. Students continue to achieve excellent exam results. Twice in recent years, Clonaslee has succeeded in being the top school in Laois as a feeder school for Third Level Colleges and Universities. Clonaslee students have been awarded scholarships to Universities and Third Level Colleges and have excelled at this level.

Mrs Noreen Sweeney retired as Principal in 2018 and was replaced by Ms Suzanne McMahon.

Clonaslee College,
Co. Laois,

057 864 8044

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