Call for overhaul of school works process

SCHOOLS in Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s home county which have been waiting from eight to 12 years for building works to begin are proof of a need to overhaul the bureaucratic process, a teachers’ union has claimed.

The list of nine primary schools in Offaly whose applications for major building works has been issued by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) to demonstrate the drawn-out assessment process it says is faced by staff and boards of management of schools on the Department of Education school building programme.

More than 1,100 of the country’s 4,000 primary and second-level schools have applications with the department for a range of works.

The following Co Offaly primary schools have been waiting an average of more than nine-and-a-half years for major building works, according to the INTO:

* Charleville National School (application lodged in January 1998)

* Scoil Mhuire, Tullamore (May 1999)

* Croinchoill NS, Birr (September 1999)

* Scoil Náisiúnta Osmann, Birr (November 1999)

* SN Naomh Eoin, An Rath (March 2000)

* SN Mhuire Cluain Na nGamhain (June 2000)

* SN Mhuire Cul An Airne (March 2001)

* SN Proinsias Naofa Clara (June 2001)

* Clonbullogue NS (September 2001)

INTO incoming general secretary Sheila Nunan said the application and assessment process seems to be designed to keep schools on a waiting list for as long as possible.

Ms Nunan said it cannot be right that schools have to wait a decade for essential building work to progress.

“Children spend eight years at most in a primary school and it is wrong that some are forced to endure unsuitable accommodation. More must be done to devolve the process to school boards so that projects can be brought to completion sooner,” she said.

“At this rate of progress some of the current generation of pupils will be pensioners before all current projects will be completed,” Ms Nunan said.

Of a €841 million budget for capital works in schools and colleges this year, Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s department had spent less than €630m by the end of November. He insisted earlier this month, however, that what remained after the €84m he can carry into next year would be spent by year’s end.

In 2009, 14 new schools were built and four extensions or refurbishments were carried out at primary level. The Irish Examiner revealed earlier this month that 16 of the 43 schools whose projects Mr O’Keeffe said in February would go to tender or construction this year had actually done so by early December.


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