Wednesday 13 December 2017

Call for 25 schools to be examined for fire breaches builder

Stock photo
Stock photo
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Teachers and parents are demanding sweeping reviews of schools built in the last 10 years after the safety of thousands of pupils was questioned after a Department of Education audit.

The INTO has called for a review of 25 schools across the country to be extended to include every new school and building similar to the five schools where fire safety standards have been breached.

An audit found breaches at five schools constructed by Western Building System Ltd (WBS) in 2008 that required immediate action. The calls came as the builder of the five schools found to be in breach of the standards said it believes the schools met all relevant fire and building regulations.

INTO assistant general secretary Peter Mullan said examining a sample section of schools built since 2008 was not enough. "There should be no compromise of the health and safety of pupils or staff," he said. "All these types of buildings that were constructed over the recent past should be reviewed. We need an investigation to find out how it happened. The department needs to do a review of all recent buildings that were done."

WBS said it believes the schools met all relevant fire safety and building regulations. It said: "It is important to note that both building and fire regulations have been updated since the buildings were handed over and that schools are responsible for maintenance programmes once a project has been delivered by the contractor. We do not believe WBS is responsible for issues that have presented themselves since the hand-overs, some of which were designed and built almost 10 years ago."

However, the department has ordered fire safety audits to be carried out at other schools built by WBS and other builders after it was found the schools failed to provide a 60-minute fire retardation window for an evacuation.

The schools affected are Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath in Greystones, Mullingar ETNS and Powerstown ETNS, Belmayne ETNS and St Francis of Assisi National School, Dublin. Powerstown is set to be replaced but a department spokesman said it was agreed WBS would carry out required works at the four remaining schools last June. The department had believed the work was completed but a consultant (MSA) advised officials this was not the case.

"Further site visits to the schools were carried out by MSA in March/April 2017. This was a visual inspection of the previously advised completed items by WBS. The draft report which was received from MSA in May 2017 following this visit concluded that very little upgrade works which were previously advised had actually been carried out."

Upgrades at the five affected schools are currently in train. Yesterday, the National Parents Council post primary (NPCpp) called for to undergo extensive checks. Paul Rolston, of the NPCpp, said: "All school buildings should be constructed in compliance with the highest safety standards. Where an audit finds any school building in breach of safety standards, immediate remedial work should be undertaken."

Sunday Independent

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