Making it Work

NameDown’s software platform helps solve messy school admissions problem

As a teacher and parent, Emer O’Dwyer of Spotlight Skills was well-placed to help oversubscribed schools navigate admissions systems

Emer O’Dwyer of Spotlight Skills pictured in Kilkenny. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

Drawing on her own experience as a careers guidance teacher, Emer O’Dwyer, founder of Spotlight Skills, was drawn to solving problems and filling gaps she saw in the system every day.

While the Kilkenny-based company was founded in February 2020 to provide a programme for transition year students – equipping them with management, decision-making and interpersonal skills – big-picture thinking was soon surpassed by the need to solve everyday difficulties.

“Talking to the schools and doing a bit of business development, it really became apparent that to have a sustainable business, you have to be solving a problem,” Emer said.

“I used to work in school myself as a teacher, and I could see what schools might have been under pressure from. School admissions was one of those.”

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As a parent, O’Dwyer was well aware of how difficult navigating the admissions systems – or lack thereof – could be.

“I decided to see if I could put something out there that would help solve the problem for both sides,” she explains.


This led to the launch of NameDown, a cloud-based admissions software designed to help schools manage applications, offers and waiting lists.

Schools can create their own portal on which to receive applications and documentation from parents of prospective pupils, minimising the back-and-forth and communication mix-ups that are increasingly frustrating teachers and parents alike.

“It’s a big problem for schools. Over-subscription means that they have more applications than they have places available, which happens in a lot of areas,” she said.

With multiple oversubscribed schools in a given area, parents inevitably apply to several schools.

Company Details


Founded: 2020, NameDown launched 2021

Investment: €50,000

Headcount: 1

“It's just a game of numbers. With so many people applying for places, it's a lot of work on school administrators to handle. That’s where NameDown comes in,” O’Dwyer added.

All schools in the area, having signed up to the software, will be able to see if another has accepted an applicant – helping to avoid duplicate acceptance and reducing time spent wading through waiting lists.

A feature allowing parents to search registered schools in the local area will be launched in the coming weeks, as O’Dwyer gears up for a new academic year that seems to loom earlier and earlier for those grappling with admissions annually.

Following an initial test-basis run of the software, NameDown is now open to all schools in Ireland.

O’Dwyer will be contacting all four thousand schools in Ireland in the coming months to offer a demo and to invite them onboard.

She said that the development of the software was based on consultations with teachers, with emphasis on user-friendliness so that schools can sign up and go live in minutes.

The software is outsourced but the company has long-term plans to bring it in-house,

While there had been preliminary discussions with private investors, O’Dwyer remains keen to help manage the particular issue of over-subscription before considering any expansion.

“At this moment, my total focus is on supporting the schools that are currently using it and on-boarding more schools, supporting them with the admissions, and also having a sustainable business.”

And while Enterprise Ireland (EI) provided €50,000 for NameDown in 2021, the confidence boost was as vital to Emer as the injection of cash.

The guidance from three different EI mentors was particularly useful to someone who didn’t have a “huge amount of prior business experience”.

“Every step of the way, they’ve brought the company on more and more. It's really about the support they've given,” she said.

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland