Parents and teachers united in anger over school building failure

PARENTS and teachers last night united to castigate the Government for its failure to deliver the promised programme to build and refurbish schools.

And some teachers said the time was right for concerted protest action with parents to ensure better funding for such projects.

The National Parents Council, representing primary schools, welcomed the clarity of Education Minister Noel Dempsey’s announcement on Wednesday.

Mr Dempsey outlined plans for a €343 million school-building programme for 2003. This will include projects at 600 primary and secondary schools.

But Parents Council chief executive Fionnuala Kilfeather said a clear set of criteria and priorities must be established for school buildings. She said schools breaking health and safety laws must be immediately upgraded while buildings lacking basic facilities must also get priority.

Ms Kilfeather said the maintenance of school buildings cannot be neglected either. “It is clear that school boards need and deserve technical support to assist them in the maintenance and upkeep of schools,” she said.

She said one Government department cannot ensure the upkeep and development of the country’s 4,000 primary and secondary schools.

But Government officials last night defended Mr Dempsey’s strategy, which was described as honest and open.

However, as anger mounted in the schools and opposition politicians intensified their criticism, there were calls for major protests.

Richard Cotter, principal of St Anne’s National School in Shankill, Co Dublin, said the parents and teachers were angry at continuing delays.

He said the school had been promised a major extension, which was to have begun by Christmas.

Mr Cotter said the time for concerted action had now come. “Parents and teachers from different schools should meet and build up a groundswell of protest,” he said.

Green Party education spokesman Paul Gogarty last night accused the Government of practising “voodoo economics” in neglecting investment for tomorrow’s adults.

Deputy Gogarty also criticised moves towards public-private partnership for school funding, saying education must be a priority for taxpayers’ money.

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