Thirty-seven schools refused funding for fire safety works

High number of application rejections ‘extremely concerning’ , TD says

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the ‘department takes the fire safety of children, teachers and all those who work in schools extremely seriously’.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the ‘department takes the fire safety of children, teachers and all those who work in schools extremely seriously’. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Thirty-seven school funding applications to carry out fire safety works were rejected over the last three years, figures from the Department of Education show.

Out of 70 funding applications for fire safety remedial and improvement works on school buildings, 32 applications have been approved by the Department of Education since 2015.

The figures were obtained by Sinn Féin TD John Brady from a parliamentary question to the Department . Mr Brady said the high number of schools refused funding for fire safety works was “extremely concerning”.

Writing to Mr Brady in response to the figures Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the “department takes the fire safety of children, teachers and all those who work in schools extremely seriously”.

Mr Bruton said school applications may have been rejected as the proposed works were not primarily fire safety issues, and where warranted the Department acts to carry out school fire safety works “as a matter of priority”.

Schools can also apply under the minor works grant to carry out fire safety improvement work.

“Schools are not applying to the Department for funding specifically to address fire safety concerns, unless there are, in the first instance fire safety concerns,” Mr Brady said.

“It recently came to light that serious fire safety concerns were identified in five schools in the State and the Department appeared to be in no rush to remedy this. There should no outstanding fire safety concerns in any school, primary or secondary, in this State” he said.

At the start of September the Department of Education published fire safety audits carried out in five primary schools that found they were non-compliant with safety standards.

The schools had been built as part of a 2008 “rapid build” programme, and were constructed by Northern Irish firm Western Building Systems.

Less fire resistant plasterboard was used in the construction of the schools, and the audits advised immediate remedial work needed to be carried out.

The fire safety audits were completed in July 2016, and the Department of Education said all required remedial work to bring the schools up to fire safety standard will be completed by next month.

The schools involved were Powerstown Educate Together; Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha, Greystones Co Wicklow; Mullingar Educate Together in Co Westmeath; Belmayne Educate Together; and St Francis of Assissi, National School, in Belmayne, North Dublin.

Powerstown Educate Together demolished the school building in question inSeptember 2016 and moved into a new school building.

Following the fire safety problems in the rapid build schools programme the Department of Education committed to undertake a wider audit of school buildings. A fire safety audit of a representative sample of 25 to 30 schools built over the last 20 years was announced earlier this month.

Sixteen applications from Dublin schools for funding were submitted to the Department of Education between 2015 and 2017, and ten were approved. Schools in Donegal made seven applications for funding, and two were successful. In Galway, six schools requested funding, and four were successful.