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Educate Together

'Six years on, we still have no school. I'm worried my daughter will never learn in a school building'

Parents and children held a protest outside the Dáil yesterday urging the government to provide them with a school.

7242 Ballinteer Educate Together_90513439 Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

“DON’T BE CRUEL, build our school.”

That was the cry from children, and their parents, yesterday at the gates of Leinster House.

The pupils at the Ballinteer Educate Together have been learning in cramped classrooms at St Tiernan’s Secondary School for over five years, and their parents have had finally had enough.

In some cases, the classrooms for children are almost a quarter of the size it needs to be.

At yesterday’s rain drenched protest outside the Dáil, parents and pupils urged Minister for Education Richard Bruton to commit to making the resources available to build their school and instruct his department to lodge the planning application as soon as possible.

Cramped conditions

At present there are nine classes from junior infants to third class comprising about 230 children.

A parents’ group has said the current facilities are inadequate with resource teachers forced to work in the lobby and caretaker equipment being stored in toilets.

Plans have been previously submitted for the construction of a permanent school building beside St Tiernan’s but these plans were rejected due to access concerns.

Updated plans were also submitted but were also refused and there have been suggestions that lands could be purchased by the Department of Education to help with access to the site.

7176 Ballinteer Educate Together_90513445 Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

The problems have meant that the permanent plans have stalled with the school now moving to another temporary site at Notre Dame in Churchtown.

The distance between Notre Dame and St Tiernan’s is around 3km.

That school campus will be shared with a secondary school and parents have expressed concerns about space at the new school.

A number of politicians have been acting on behalf of the parents and, in response to a question from Senator Neale Richmond, Education Minister Richard Bruton said the school is a “high priority” for the department.

The minister said the Notre Dame site was purchased by the department and a technical assessment is currently being carried out with regards to how best to accommodate Ballinteer Educate Together.

Bruton added that there is “no doubt” that a new planning application would be submitted to allow for the construction of the permanent school building:

I can assure the Senator, from our point of view, that this is a high priority. We want to facilitate this successful school. We want to complete these processes as quickly as possible but we have to do them in a way that meets the requirements and expectations of pupils for the long term, and that is a very important consideration.

“All we’ve had is promises”

Yulia’s child is in senior infants. She told that the aims of the parents were simple: “We’re trying to get our school built.

The last five years we’ve only had promises. That’s not enough. The new school [in Churchtown] is not convenient for all of the parents.

Another parent said that the government was simply “kicking the can down the road in terms of committing to planning and building”:

It is unfair that we all pay our taxes yet we don’t have the basic commodity of a school for our children.

7189 Ballinteer Educate Together_90513444 Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

The parents association has been very proactive at taking measures to try to make the government take notice of their plight.

Members told “All we want is a basic timeline of when planning will go in and what’s happening with Notre Dame. We know nothing about Notre Dame and don’t know if we’ll all fit.

We don’t even have a hall for the kids to do PE in if it’s raining. In the winter they just have to stay inside their classrooms.

They added that it was very difficult for teachers to teach in such confined spaces.

Ann Roche has two children in the school. She said that she thought this problem would have been sorted a long time ago.

Roche praised the teachers and staff at the school but said that there was a lot of “miscommunication” from the Department of Education on the matter.

After almost six years we have no school building. My daughter started in 2012 and I thought that by time my son started, in 2014, we’d have a school. Here we are in 2017, and we still have no school.
My daughter is in third class now and I’m worried that she will never enter a school building.

With reporting from Aisling Lawrence and Beth O’Neill

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

Read: FactCheck: Are Catholic schools more socially diverse than other schools?

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