Principal: It’s not acceptable to be sitting in squalor for another four years

The principal of a school finalising a planning application for a new building has criticised Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, for excluding it from his five-year school construction plan.

Two of the classrooms at Glenville National School in North Cork are in a 1955 building so damp that principal Michael O’Donnell has a dehumidifier constantly running in the corridor.

A “temporary” three- room extension was added to the village school in 1968 but is still in use more than 40 years later, along with two prefab classrooms.

In the meantime, pupil numbers have grown from under 100 in 1999 to 152 this year, and are likely to exceed 160 in September.

The €1.5bn school building fund to be spent by Mr Quinn’s department up to 2016 is mostly focused on schools with growing enrolments, but Glenville NS was left out.

“There is no sense of any strategy or transparency behind the department’s building ‘plans’. Glenville NS has been on various lists since being sanctioned for a new school in 2005,” said Mr O’Donnell.

“Now we have disappeared from any list whatsoever until after 2016. In the meantime, our 1955 building, which we first applied to have demolished in 1999, continues to be used by children and teachers despite not being fit for purpose,” he said.

“The primary curriculum is just a pious aspiration for children trying to learn and teachers trying to teach in such difficult and overcrowded conditions.”

Mr O’Donnell said the 1955 classrooms are just 36sq m each, less than half the department’s regulation size of 80sq/m per classroom, despite having classes of 20 third class pupils and 21 in sixth class.

Two half-acre sites adjoining the school were bought, one in about 2003 and another in 2010, to facilitate the planned new eight-classroom school and PE hall, with a design team paid for by the department over the last two years.

“They’re almost ready to be submitted for planning but here we are now, looking like there will be no work starting before 2016. It’s not acceptable to be sitting and working in this squalor for another four years,” said Mr O’Donnell.

The Department of Education said Glenville NS and other building projects currently in architectural planning would continue to be advanced incrementally over time in the context of available funding.

However, a spokeswoman said that it was not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the project to go to tender and construction because of competing demands on the capital budget.

“The project for Glenville NS is at an early stage of architectural planning. A tender exercise to appoint a replacement architect was recently completed and the design team was authorised to proceed to develop the detailed design. The project will continue to progress through the design stages up to and including securing planning permission and the preparation of tender documents,” she said.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said schools whose projects were delayed faced further difficulty as the department has axed funds for running repairs and summer works to upgrade roofs, heating, plumbing and other maintenance.


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