Bray school’s ‘homeless’ crisis looms ahead of State exams

Principal flags mounting anxiety among staff and students as temporary home up for sale

 

Hundreds of pupils at a secondary school in Bray, Co Wicklow, have demonstrated outside Leinster House after it was confirmed they will be forced to leave their building just weeks before the start of the State exams.

North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School is based in temporary premises on Putland Road.

This property is for sale and in recent days the school received an official notice to vacate the building on May 1st, 2019.

They say no progress has been made on a plan announced two years ago to provide it with a new premises in Bray.

School principal Jonathan Brownersaid anxiety levels among staff and students were at “extraordinary levels” as the deadline approaches.

He said there were no proposals or plans from the Department of Education to resolve the crisis.

Mr Browner added that parents of children with special needs were deeply concerned given the effects the upheaval will have on such vulnerable children.

“We’re now at the stage where we’re making active inquiries to hotels and sports clubs about sourcing temporary accommodation,” he said.

“It’s incredible that it has got to this stage. We’ve been warning that the lease is going to run out and no one is listening to us. We feel we’re being stonewalled. Our autism spectrum disorder students thrive on routine. We opened a class for them based on demand and now we feel we’re being left high and dry.”

The school has an enrolment of about 180 students and is due to grow to almost 300 next year.

About 60 students are due to sit their Junior Cert next year. And it is set to grow to some 1,000 pupils over the coming years.

The board of management said the department has known that this problem was inevitable for the last 2½ years.

“We now call on Minister Joe McHugh to intervene immediately to ensure that this farce does not continue,” said a spokesman.

The department said a big capital project to provide permanent accommodation for the school is being planned and that it was in discussion with North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School over the matter.

No progress

Plans to co-locate the school with Bray Institute of Further Education were announced in 2016.

The school says these plans have stalled and fear it could take several years before a new building materialises.

Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB), which is the management body for the Bray Institute of Further Education, said use of these lands was still under consideration.

“ This is on foot of a request from the Department of Education. The board discussed this at the meeting on the 13th of November 2018 and are seeking additional information in order to conclude their decision-making process,” she said.

“Accordingly, and in order to ensure due process, we will not be in position to comment further until such time as KWETB board reaches a formal and final decision.”

She added that Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board are not the patron of the school. And the matter of their temporary accommodation was not under its remit.

“KWETB are very mindful of the difficult position of North Wicklow Educate Together at this time,” said the spokeswoman.