A Galway Senator told the Seanad that it is unacceptable that a County Galway primary school is awaiting a new building for over 25 years, saying that there has been a complete oversight by the Department of Education when it comes to prioritising the needs of the pupils and staff at the school.
Senator for Roscommon-Galway Aisling Dolan told Minister of State Josepha Madigan in the Seanad today that the government has failed to deliver a new primary school to for Scoil an Chroí Naofa in Ballinasloe.
The Fine Gael Senator asked the Minister what has been going on for the past 25 years that pupils and teaching staff at the school are freezing in a building dating back to the 30s and 60s. “How is this fit for purpose?” said Senator Dolan adding that five boards of management and five principals in the school over a course of 25 years have struggled to “get the project across the line”. Planning permission was issued in 2011, extended in 2016 and is due to expire in November 2021. Senator Dolan said that in 2016 the Department of Education provided a letter outlining that the school was ready to go for ‘final planning approval’, yet nearly six years on, there is no new school building.
The school is the only ‘DEIS Band One school’ in County Galway and has a catchment area of Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath with an ASD class and Senator Dolan said that children with special needs “were crying out for a space and there hasn’t been a space for 25 years” at the school.
Senator Dolan said that in the meantime, children and staff at the school have been attending a school building that isn’t fit for purpose despite the incredible efforts of staff. In 1996, the boys’ school and girls’ school amalgamated and at that stage, a new school was promised.
Senator Dolan said she could not understand that out of five stages of building approval, that after 25 years, the project was still at Stage 2B. “Who is accountable for these delays?” she said questioning who was paying the design team for over 20 years. “We need action for close to 300 children at this school and the children who are at school now will not see a new school building. The children in the ASD Unit will be waiting another four years, even if we move this to Stage 3 without any delay.”
Minister Madigan said that the Department was awaiting a Stage 2B report from the school authorities and the project cannot be progressed without this and that new planning permission extension may be required. “It does seem an extraordinary amount of time but there is collaboration,” said Minister Madigan saying that she would bring the project to the attention of Minister for Education Norma Foley.
Senator Dolan said it was important that a monthly update meeting with all stakeholders including the School’s Board of Management, the Design Team and Galway County Council led by the Department of Education takes place to drive this project. She said she wanted a commitment from the Design Team to submit new planning permission to the local authority by April 2021 and that she wanted the Department of Education to review this project as an urgent priority under Stage 3 and include in the School Building Projects list for 2021.