Five schools forced to delay opening for second time

Educate Together ‘frustrated’ over delay in securing safety certificates for school buildings

Ashbourne Educate Together National School was able to open its doors for the school year only on Monday.

Ashbourne Educate Together National School was able to open its doors for the school year only on Monday.

 

Eighty children, due to start school last Monday, have had the beginning of their school year postponed again following delays in their school buildings being certified as safe.

This follows 1,500 pupils having their return to school delayed last week also due to building safety concerns.

Five Educate Together (ET) schools in Dublin, including one secondary school, first delayed opening until Wednesday, have now been told they cannot open until next Monday.

These follow the delayed re-openings last week of five other Educate Together schools, four in Dublin and one in Co Meath, affecting 1,499 pupils.

While this week’s delays concern new temporary buildings and centre on problems issuing safety certificates, most delays last week were due to structural problems identified over the summer.

Ashbourne Educate Together National School (ETNS) in Co Meath (434 pupils), Firhouse ETNS (241 pupils) and Firhouse Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) (43 students), Griffeen Valley ETNS (543 pupils) in Lucan, Co Dublin, and, Shellybanks ETNS in Sandymount (238 pupils) all opened eventually on Monday.

These schools had all been built by the Co Tyrone-based Western Building Systems construction company. Late last year 42 schools it built were structurally assessed and precautionary measures were put in place at 22 schools.

Structural remediation was carried out on 14 schools over the summer, including Ashbourne ETNS, and fire safety works at eight schools including Griffeen Valley ETNS. Precautionary measures were undertaken at 17 schools over the summer, including Firhouse ETNS, delays in which affected the ETSS there.

This week three brand new schools – Harold’s Cross ETNS, Dublin 13 ETNS, Killester Raheny Clontarf ETNS – and Dublin North East ETSS and the Dublin South City ETNS, which opened in 2018, remain closed and the children due to attend them, at home.

No control

A spokesman stressed neither Educate Together nor its schools’ staff had any control over delays which had happened because Dublin City Council remained unable to issue Building Control Regulations certificates to the Department of Education as the buildings did not yet meet all planning, structure and fire safety regulations.

“Educate Together recognises and shares the deep frustration and inconvenience faced by the families, staff and wider school communities involved. No school community should be placed in this difficult situation. It is particularly disappointing for junior infants children and their families,” he said.

“The necessary certifications can only be completed by the Department of Education and their contractors. Lack of communication from the department with Educate Together and the school principals has exacerbated the stress caused by the delays.”

The patron body operates 91 primary and 17 secondary schools and says it repeatedly raised concerns with the department over the summer about the too-short time-frames it was allocating to have works completed and buildings ready.

A spokesman for the Department of Education confirmed “a small number of new schools were affected by delays of a few days to facilitate the completion of some external works around the schools’ start-up accommodation and also to ensure the buildings are fully certified”.

“The affected schools will open on Monday, 9th September.

“The department has met with Educate Together on a monthly basis over the last 12 months to keep the patron body and its schools informed of progress in the provision of accommodation for these schools.”