Education Minister Noel Dempsey performed the official opening of two dedicated prefabricated buildings at Educate Together Swords National School and Gaelscoil Bhrian Boróimhe in north Dublin yesterday.
However, the three-acre site which the two schools now call home was donated and serviced by building developer Gerry Gannon, who also provided a play area and access road, with clearance from Fingal County Council.
The Department of Education only came on board later, buying the prefabs and paying what Educate Together development manager Jane McCarthy described as a minimal lease.
“If it wasn’t for Mr Gannon’s generosity these schools could have been waiting another five years for department support to acquire a site and they might not have been able to expand until then,” she said.
The multi-denominational Educate Together school has around 120 pupils. Without the new building, it would not have had room for last September’s intake of junior infants at the old soccer clubhouse it used for its first two years.
“This is the situation facing all new schools, to be told their board of management must provide interim accommodation until the department is in a position to build a school, which is normally seven to 10 years down the road,” Ms McCarthy said.
Even with the dedicated building provided by the Department of Education, it cannot guarantee it will have room for the two junior infant classes lined up for enrolment next autumn.
A Department of Education spokesperson said it has a two-year lease on the site, with an option to extend for a third year, but it is not clear yet whether the school’s permanent accomodation will be provided there or elsewhere.
“It’s true that schools would be advised that it usually takes seven to 10 years to get permanent accommodation, but the issue is prioritised in rapidly-developing areas like this,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Dempsey yesterday said both schools were grateful for Mr Gannon’s assistance in making the buildings and services available. He described the shared campus as a unique development in Irish primary education, with a multi-denominational school and an all-Irish inter-denominational school on the same grounds. Swords has experienced massive urban growth in recent years, creating huge demand for diverse educational provision.