Disadvantaged school near Wesley refused PE hall for decades

St Tiernan’s is yards from fee-paying school at the centre of hockey pitches controversy

PE teacher Agata Suszczynska, principal Declan Hughes and councillor Lettie McCarthy at St Tiernan’s Community School, Dundrum. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

PE teacher Agata Suszczynska, principal Declan Hughes and councillor Lettie McCarthy at St Tiernan’s Community School, Dundrum. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A disadvantaged community school – just yards from a fee-paying school at the centre of controversy over State-funded hockey pitches – says it has been refused successive applications to build a PE hall for almost 40 years.

St Tiernan’s Community School in Dundrum, Dublin says it has been campaigning to get proper indoor sports facilities without success since it first opened its doors in 1980.

“It’s a huge problem for us,” says school principal Declan Hughes. “We’ve no showers or changing rooms. So, the students come back mud-strewn in the winter. They end up changing in toilets or in bits of rooms... It’s hard on teenagers, who are very conscious of these things.”

The school, which has Deis or disadvantaged status, has two PE teachers and places a big emphasis on sport.

It applied to become part of a pilot project of 80 schools to take on PE as a Leaving Cert subject from next year, but was turned down, partly, due to its lack of facilities.

Its neighbouring school, Wesley College – which has been accepted on to the PE pilot project – has a gymnasium and sports hall, along with four rugby pitches, one soccer pitch, two Astroturf hockey pitches, 16 tennis courts, two cricket pitches and basketball courts.

The school website describes them as “superb sporting facilities” which ensure all students have a chance to “achieve their full potential and enjoy their sport in a spacious and well laid out sporting campus”.

Grant controversy

The school has been at the centre of controversy over receiving a €150,000 sports capital grant for upgrading its hockey pitches from the Department of Tourism and Sport.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross, who congratulated the school after Wesley’s application was deemed successful, has insisted he played no role in the process.

Yesterday, the Sunday Business Post reported that Wesley College – which initially had its application turned down – threatened legal action over this decision, which was later approved.

Local Green Party TD Catherine Martin said teachers and pupils in schools such as St Tiernan’s felt demoralised and neglected, especially given the limited access to PE as a Leaving Cert subject.

“The overarching priority for this or any other government should be to support our most disadvantaged students, as education is key to striving to achieve equality of opportunity,” she said.

‘Frustrating’

The department confirmed recently that while applications for PE halls are not being approved at present, new funding under the National Development Plan will provide funding “in the medium term” for an additional focus on the PE facilities in post-primary schools.

Mr Hughes said the department had, at least, agreed to fund a PE hall if it gave up some of its land for a new primary school. Planning permission was never awarded, however.

He added: “We’re a south Dublin school, but we serve disadvantaged communities such as Ballyogan, Kilcross, Moreen. Sport is very big for us and our students. We’ve won basketball, soccer and netball competitions.

“It is frustrating when you see schools around us who are doing well, with lovely facilities, getting grants.”