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'We have absolutely no idea how long we'll be here' - School's permanent building delayed by 'complex planning issue'

In March, parents and students marched to the Dáil.

Students at Ballinteer Educate Together school.
Students at Ballinteer Educate Together school.
Image: BETNS

THE DEPARTMENT OF Education says it is fully committed to a Dublin primary school, despite parents saying they’ve waited over 100 days for a response to a protest.

Ballinteer Educate Together National School had been operating out of classrooms in St Tiernan’s Secondary School in Balally, but it is now in the old Notre Dame building in Churchstown. Its rapid and continued expansion has meant it must find a permanent home.

In March, parents and students marched to the Dáil asking why the five-year wait for a permanent building had no signs of ending.

They asked Education Minister Richard Bruton to come to the school to discuss their concerns, but say that up to 100 days later, no response had been forthcoming. A response to the parent-teachers association was issued by Minister Bruton’s office last week.

A statement from the school’s parent-teacher association says:

“Minister Bruton did not come to our school and did not answer our questions. The lack of communication and progress continues despite daily requests to Minister Bruton to update us.

Our school is now housed in the old Notre Dame building in Churchtown, sharing with two other schools and absolutely no idea how long we will be there. Two years, five years? We ask how can we put down roots when everywhere we go is temporary?

“We want to know what progress, if any, has been made and when the new planning application will be lodged. We invite Minister Bruton to come to the Ballinteer Educate Together, now in Churchtown, to meet with the Principal, Board and parents to give us some answers.”

However, the Department said that the issue is a “complex planning” problem.

A Department spokesperson said:

“[Outline] planning permission was submitted to the relevant local authority in December 2012 but was refused on the grounds of site access. This was appealed by the Department to An Bord Pleanála but subsequently withdrawn to facilitate submission to the local authority of an amended outline planning permission in 2013, which was also refused on similar grounds.

This decision was appealed by the Department to An Bord Pleanála but was refused. However, the Board considered that the matter of assessing alternative means of accessing these lands would benefit from a coordinated approach by the Department and the local authority in the interests of achieving a comprehensive and balanced solution to ongoing access issues on this educational campus.

“This is a complex planning issue and the Department has met with all of the relevant parties including the local authority and third-party landowners on a number of occasions, with a view to finding an acceptable solution to the access issue.

“The Department is fully committed to bringing this project to a satisfactory conclusion as soon as the planning issues have been resolved.

“Correspondence issued on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills recently to the Chairperson of the Parents Association for Ballinteer ETNS outlining the above information. The Department has also been in regular contact with the school authorities and patron on the above matters.”

In May, Amanda Bailey, head of the PTA and parent of a child at the school, told that the size of the classrooms at the former site were too small.

“It’s really not fair on our children to be treated like this, they’re in tiny classrooms. One, with 27 children in 34 sq metres, is even nicknamed ‘the headache room’ because it gets so stuffy.”

Back then, Bruton said that there is “no doubt” that a new planning application would be submitted to allow for the construction of the permanent school building.

Read: ‘It’s not fair on our children – one classroom is so stuffy it’s nicknamed the headache room’

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