Church offered ‘unsuitable remote’ building for Educate Together school

School opening would result in ‘reckless waste of taxpayer money’, says Educate Together

Paul Knox with pupils from the Casteheaney Educate Together school in Ongar. Photograph: Alan Betson

Paul Knox with pupils from the Casteheaney Educate Together school in Ongar. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A Co Mayo school building offered by the Catholic Church as part of a divestment process requires “considerable redevelopment” and is not accessible to students due to its remote location, according to Educate Together.

The Burren National School near Castlebar, which closed more than 20 years ago, was offered to Educate Together by the Tuam Archdiocese as part of a Government plan to divest schools from Catholic patronage in order to boost parental choice and create greater diversity at primary level.

The school was scheduled to open in September but Educate Together said it would be irresponsible to do so in the remote location as it would “result in a reckless waste of taxpayers money”.

“The result would be a refurbished school building with no students attending,” Educate Together said in a statement, which added that it had expressed concerns to the Department of Education over the location in 2014.

Educate Together called on the department to ensure that negotiations as part of divestment leases lead to the “long-term viability of effective primary schools”.

The equality-based school patron said it “tentatively accepted” the Co Mayo premises in 2014 but it became clear the Burren National School was unsuitable.

“A principal has been recruited and appointed, and the school has children enrolled for this September, and for future years. Parents of four and five year old children are eagerly anticipating the first day of school in Castlebar ETNS in a just a few weeks.”

Educate Together has suggested using a building in Castlebar as “an immediate resolution for this school in the medium term”. It warned that in order for the divestment process to be a success, buildings offered by the diocese must be “appropriately located and fit for purpose”.

In a statement, the department said it was contacted by Educate Together in June 2015 with concerns about the Burren location.

It said it was not feasible to obtain the planning and statutory permission to facilitate a school start-up in the alternative building in Castlebar suggested for use by Educate Together.

The department said it was willing to allow start-ups in temporary accommodation where there was certainty a school or State-owned building would come available in time to permanently accommodate it in future but this was not currently the case in Castlebar.