The origins of Vocational Education in Kanturk date back to the late 1920s / early 1930s when, under the County of Cork Joint Technical Instruction Committee, classes were conducted in rented accommodation in the Clock House (now the Credit Union) and in the Young Mens’ Society Hall (up the steps, across the road from Centra) in Egmont Place. Subjects taught included Woodwork, Domestic Economy, Commerce, Irish and general subjects. The instructors of these courses also conducted classes in the neighbouring towns of Newmarket and Millstreet. The Vocational Education Act 1930 established VECs throughout the country and Cork VEC set about the task of providing what were then called Technical Schools in the various towns around the county, including Kanturk. A local committee was formed to find a suitable site. This process was to take until 1937 before the school was built. In 1933 a 1.5 acre site at Greenane, owned by Mr. M.C. Harte Barry was purchased for £200. Approval was granted by the Department of Education in July 1936 to erect a building on the site at a cost not exceeding £4000. However, in August 1936 a tender of £4218 from a Mr. Robert Buckley of Cobh was accepted and the resulting building was described in the “Cork Examiner” of November 30th 1936 as follows.
In May 1937 Mr. A. Moynihan was appointed as caretaker in the new school (at a salary of 35 shillings per week). In 1938 he retired on the grounds of ill health and in September 1938 he was succeeded as caretaker by Patie Moynihan, at a salary of £2 per week.
In December 1937 Amhlaoibh O Loinsigh was appointed Headmaster – a position he retained until his death in office in 1954. He was replaced by Eoghan MacSuibhne in 1955.
The original school consisted of four rooms, – a practical room for woodwork and metalwork and a classroom downstairs with a Domestic Economy room and a commercial room upstairs. In 1942 an extra room for Rural Science was added and in 1947another classroom was added upstairs. At this stage the downstairs classroom became a Woodwork/Drawing room. This remained the layout until the 1960s when increasing student numbers necessitated extra accommodation.
By 1945 there were 111 students on the Roll book and 268 enrolled for night classes. In 1954 when Dick O’Brien started in Coláiste Treasa there were 60 boys and 22 girls and he remembers that equipment was very scarce at that time. He recalls buying six chisels for 9 shillings or approximately 60 cents in today’s money! There were 6 classrooms in 1954 and 7 permanent teachers:
All teachers were requested to take night classes in addition to their day classes. During those early decades the emphasis was very much on the practical subjects reflecting the needs of the world of work at the time. Low levels of industrial activity and high levels of emigration meant that it was a minority of young people who could avail of second level education because, strange as it may appear to us today, all schools charged fees in those days and continued to do so until 1967.
The early 1960s saw a big improvement in the economic conditions in Ireland, leading to a lot of industrial development and demand for a more highly educated workforce. Increasing student numbers necessitated extra accommodation and in 1962 a new free-standing woodwork room was built in one of the garden plots. Tim Goulding recounts that a contractor, Jeremiah O’Keeffe, Annabella, Mallow built the walls and roof and installed the windows. The twelve summer apprentices of that year did the rest. They plastered, made wooden doors, skirting and frames, tiled and painted. By night they attended lectures and classes in Technical Drawing. In 1966 a further extension, connecting the original building to the woodwork room provided a new science room plus two new classrooms (known as 9 and 10) and a small staffroom. By the late 1960s it was necessary to install two prefabricated classrooms – rooms 11 and 12 – further up the garden.
The Intermediate Certificate Examination (forerunner of the Junior Cert.) was introduced to Vocational Schools and was first examined in Kanturk in 1969. Big changes had to be made in the school curriculum to accommodate the Inter Cert and later the Leaving Cert. (which was introduced to Kanturk VS in 1975) The advent of free education and the school transport system led to a large increase in student numbers and put great pressure on classroom accommodation. Allied to this, the closure of Kiskeam Vocational School in 1969 meant the arrival of many students from Boherbue, Kiskeam, Rockchapel and Meelin. This resulted in a huge increase in student numbers. Indeed, in 1971 there was a 1st year intake of 94 boys and 35 girls and in 1972 an enrolment of 96 boys and 34 girls in 1st year. The upsurge of pupils necessitated the provision of an additional 4 prefabs (rooms 13 – 16) in 1972-’73 and temporary accommodation in three rooms in the nearby Edel Quinn Hall and a large increase in teaching staff to cater for the huge numbers which increased to a total of 371 students in 1972. This period of rapid increase was followed by one of steady predictable decrease owing to the loss of a significant proportion of the catchment area to Boherbue when the Comprehensive School opened there in 1973. This drastically reduced the 1st year enrolments to 49 boys and 12 girls in that year.
The school responded by introducing the Leaving Certificate in which the first 9 students – all boys – were examined in 1975.
Both boys and girls sat the exam the following year. (Although boys and girls attended Kanturk VS from the early days, it was not until the ‘70s that the classes were mixed and full co-ed did not come into being until the’ 80s. Previously, the girls were upstairs and the boys were downstairs – a co-ed school, but not as we know it today.) The Leaving Cert. programme was gradually expanded to enable the students to progress to a broad range of 3rd level courses especially in the Universities and R.T.C.s (now called Institutes of Technology). It is interesting to note that among the first graduates of the Leaving Cert. is a senior Manager of a multinational company based in Cork and the Principal of a well-known secondary school based in Cork County.
In 1981 Eoghan MacSuibhne retired after 26 years of service as Principal and was replaced by Eugene Riordan. During the 80s the school continued to expand its curriculum and to improve its facilities. This resulted in the opening of a major extension in 1986, comprising of an assembly area, gym/concert area, canteen facilities, Engineering Workshop, Technical Graphic rooms, secretarial room, staffroom and offices. In Sept 1987 Finbarr Fitzpatrick took over as Principal but was replaced in March 1989 by Eugene Riordan who was reappointed to the position.
In the early ‘90s the school maintained a policy of extending the curriculum and enlarging the extra curricular experience of students in Music, Drama, Art and Sports. Additional facilities were added on as required, some partly funded by local initiatives and VEC support. These included Room 13, two extensions to the Woodwork room and the balcony over the gym/canteen area which was converted to a general classroom.
In 1996, from over 108 applicants to 1st year, only 72 could be accommodated. (Even so, the gym had to be partitioned into 2 classrooms, remembered fondly as 15Aand 15B or alternatively as Calcutta!) A further extension was added in 1998/’99 comprising Rooms 21 – 25 which included a new science room. The former rooms 9 and 10 from the 1960s were extended to double their size to make a new staffroom and library/computer room.
Throughout the 1980s the country was experiencing huge unemployment problems and the school’s response was to create employment experience for all its pre-Leaving Cert. students with a two-week placement at the end of the school year. This was invaluable. It opened many eyes to the reality of work and, indeed, created many a summer job for its participants. The school formalised this arrangement with the introduction of the Leaving Cert. Vocational Programme when it came on stream. This was the standard Leaving Cert course but with the addition of some practical work modules.
Following Eugene Riordans retirement in 2001 Frank O’ Sullivan became principal, the new millennium saw student numbers continue to rise, reaching a new high of 456 in 2004/05. New challenges faced us such as multi-culturalism. In the years 2006/07 we had Polish, Lithuanian, Brazilian, German, Italian, Slovakian and Mexican students. It is quite a change from the days when those furthest afield came from Meelin and Rockchapel! The curriculum has now expanded to offer a choice of 19 examination subjects at Leaving Cert compared with 11 in the 1970s.
Summer of 2006 saw Seamus Buckley become Principal following Franks retirement. With the passing of time the school continued to expand, the ‘new’ class rooms in the 20s were extended and the addition of a staff car park reflected the large numbers that we were catering for. Metalwork and science rooms were completely refurbished and the narrow corridors of Coláiste Treasa were teaming with students.
John Murphy took over from from Seamus Buckley in 2012, and oversaw the introduction of iPads to the school. The iPads which were the brain child of Mr. Buckley are a very positive addition to the school. As well as dealing with the age old challenge of overweight schoolbags, this initiative also illustrates the schools commitment to enhancing the learning experience through the medium of technology.
September 2013 proved to be a historic time for Coláiste Treasa. For the first time in the school’s history, enrolment figures passed the five hundred mark and at the time of writing we have 520 pupils in the school. A major extension has been given the green light by the planning authorities, and will consist of 2 new science rooms and a new home economics room.
Like many schools throughout the country there have been many momentous occasions over the years where students from the school have excelled in both academic and extra-curricular fields. January 2015 saw such an occasion in Coláiste Treasa, when Ian O’ Sullivan and Eimear Murphy claimed top prize in the BT young Scientist competition. Led by science teacher Derry O’ Donovan their project ‘Alcohol consumption: Does the apple fall far from the tree’ was a study into how the drinking habits of parents affect those of their children.
Nowadays, over 50% of our students pursue 3rd level education and past students have excelled academically with accounts of those doing a PhD no longer unusual. Many have won VEC awards for achieving maximum, or close to maximum, points in their Leaving Cert. As we see from the above account from the earliest days in the Clock House to the present state of the art facilities there is a long history of co-operation, hard work, dedication and commitment to education between the people of Kanturk and its environs and the staff and students of Coláiste Treasa. It is vital that this tradition continues. The success of the school is obvious from the increase in numbers over the years and illustrious roll of honour of our alumni both academically, on the sporting field and in all walks of life. The frontliners in continued success are the students and staff but of equal importance are the parents and the wider Duhallow society. We look forward to a continued and enhanced relationship in the years to come