Engineers inspect 21 schools amid concerns over building standards

Structural issues found at five facilities with six cleared to fully reopen

Scaffolding at Tyrrelstown Educate Together school in Dublin, which was closed due to concerns over “significant structural issues”. Photograph: Cate McCurry/PA Wire

Scaffolding at Tyrrelstown Educate Together school in Dublin, which was closed due to concerns over “significant structural issues”. Photograph: Cate McCurry/PA Wire

 

Engineers have now inspected 21 schools constructed by Western Building Systems (WBS), the developer at the centre of controversy over school building standards, with structural issues identified in five of the buildings.

As of Sunday, six schools have been cleared to fully reopen after the mid-term break on November 5th with no repairs needed. They are: Luttrellstown Community College; Gaelscoil Shliabh Rua, Dublin 18; Broombridge Educate Together National School; Scoil Choilm, Porterstown; Gaelscoil Thulach na nÓg, Dunboyne and Gaelscoil Teach Giúise, Firhouse.

Another two Dublin schools, Castlemills Education Centre in Balbriggan and Scoil Chaitlín Maude in Tallaght, will also reopen but will require intervention in the form of a protective fence and protective decking after structural issues were found in the exterior. This work will be completed during the mid-term break, the department said.

Issues with both the internal and external structures were found in a further three Dublin schools constructed by WBS. These are Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School, St Luke’s National School in Tyrrelstown and Gaelscoil Eiscir Riada, Lucan. Repair work was to be completed before the mid-term break to allow the ground floors of the schools to open.

Parts of Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan will also remain closed, affecting about 200 students. Arrangements have been put in place by Dublin/Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board to accommodate these students elsewhere, the department said.

Assessment work is still ongoing on nine schools. A further update is expected on Monday afternoon.

In total, the department is to inspect about 40 schools around the country before the end of the mid-term break, all of which were constructed by WBS, a Tyrone-based company.

Concerns first arose over schools built by WBS in 2015 when fire-safety defects were uncovered.

This led to a check on more schools built by the firm which, in turn, uncovered structural concerns last week.

One inspection of a school in north Dublin found there was an 80 per cent chance of an external wall falling outwards in the case of structural failure in storm force winds.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the finding was an example of the kind of potential risks facing students and staff in schools, which are the subject of structural safety checks.

Last week WBS released a statement insisting the department had signed off on each project. It said “certificates of completion” show each of the buildings was certified by representatives acting on behalf of the then minister for education.

It added that department inspectors had the right to inspect each project on a fortnightly and monthly basis.

The certificates related to buildings at Ardgillan Community School in Balbriggan, Tyrrelstown Educate Together national school and St Luke’s in Dublin 15.

All three were ordered to close last week.

The Department of Education, however, has insisted that the contractor and its design team were “fully responsible for the construction and certification of the buildings” in accordance with the regulations in force at the time.

On Sunday evening, in a further statement, WBS said it welcomed the fact half the schools identified by the department have now been assessed.

“We appreciate fully that this is an important matter, particularly for pupils, parents and teachers. In accordance with our contractual obligations, we are engaging constructively with the Department over the past number of days. We immediately offered to participate in the assessment process. We remain available to meet with the Minister for Education and Skills,” it said.

“We are committed to better understanding why schools previously certified for completion by the Department are now being assessed by the Department,” it added.