Sunday 22 September 2019

School fears it will be 'homeless' ahead of State exams

Josh Coster (13), Abby Harington (14), and Patrick Phibbs (13) from North Wicklow Educate Together secondary school protest outside the Dáil. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Josh Coster (13), Abby Harington (14), and Patrick Phibbs (13) from North Wicklow Educate Together secondary school protest outside the Dáil. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Frustrated staff and students from a Co Wicklow secondary school demonstrated outside Leinster House today over the future of their school.

North Wicklow Educate Together secondary school (NWETSS) said they will be left “homeless” when the lease in their current school building ends next April if the Department of Education do not provide a solution.

According to principal Jonathan Browner, parents and staff members of the Bray school decided to start a demonstration outside the Dáil to demand a time frame as to when a new school building will be provided.

“The Department of Education have known that the lease on this building is nearly up since the day we opened. At this point, we’re facing an eviction because the building is now up for sale,” Mr Browner told Independent.ie.

Teacher Emer Foley on bull horn leading the chant with the students outside the Dáil. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Teacher Emer Foley on bull horn leading the chant with the students outside the Dáil. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

“The most frustrating aspect of this is that there were two and a half years lost where permanent accommodation could have been found. Our message to the Minister really is, we need a temporary solution and a really clear timeline for action around the building of our permanent site.”

Mr Browner added that many parents are particularly concerned about the wellbeing of students with disabilities and special needs.

“Our autism spectrum disorder students thrive on routine. We opened a class for them based on demand and now we feel we’re being left high and dry,” he said.

Samantha Holman, whose son Simon (14) suffers with anxiety, said the lack of uncertainty next summer would have a “huge impact” on him.

“He already has a high degree of anxiety, and the uncertainty of not knowing where he’s going to be attending school, will impact his ability to continue to attend school,” Ms Holman told Independent.ie.

Local Bray resident Helen Dalton, whose children Charlie and Bethany attend the school, said she was worried about her children’s futures at the school.

Students from North Wicklow Educate Together secondary school protest outside the Dáil. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Students from North Wicklow Educate Together secondary school protest outside the Dáil. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

“It puts a question mark over my son Charlie who’s going into third year next year,” Ms Dalton said.

“It's not a year that you want to be having an upset child or any turmoil. It needs to be a plain sailing year where the only thing he is concentrating on is his exams. 

“My daughter has made some wonderful friendships this year in her first year and I want that to continue for her. A school is more than a building but at the same time, we still need a building for it to happen.”

Principal Browner, alongside members of the school’s board of management, said they were protesting for “immediate action” by Education Minister Joe McHugh.

“It’s a really terrible lesson to be teaching young people, that Government departments don’t do what they say,” he said.

“We're talking about being the best at wellbeing and best schools in Europe, we’re talking about student voice - all of these things are undermined completely by Government departments not doing what they say. The Minister needs to take action.” 

In a statement, the Department of Education said that all options are being examined to find a new temporary home for the school and the Department is liaising with both Educate Together and KWETB.

"The Department intends to build a new school for 1,000 pupils for North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School. The site identified for this is on the campus of Bray Institute of Further Education, as there are no other suitable sites available in Bray," the statement read.

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