Wednesday 23 October 2019

Urgent structural examinations of 30 schools built by the same firm to be carried out

Ardgillan Community College (inset text received by parents)
Ardgillan Community College (inset text received by parents)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Department of Education is to carry out urgent structural examinations of 30 schools built by the same firm over the past 10 years.

It follows the discovery of structural problems at a 900-pupil post-primary school in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, forcing it to close a section and tell some students to stay at home.

The Department has also confirmed that it is pursuing the same company, Western Building  Systems (WBS), to carry out fire safety works at four schools, including Ardgillan, arising from checks conducted in the past year.

The Department has been in touch with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office about the matter and initiated legal action last month. It is in ongoing consultation with the CSSO in respect of these cases.

The other schools where issues were identified in fire risk assessment reports are Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha, Greystones, Co Wicklow, Mullingar Educate Together National School, Co Westmeath and Tyrellstown Educate Together, Co Dublin.

The Co Tyrone-based WBS has been given an opportunity to remedy the issues and if they do not agree to carry out the work, the Department will source qualified teams to do it and will pursue the company in the courts.

Last year the Department ordered fire safety checks in a total of 55 schools, built in the past 20 years and particularly between 2009 and 2013,including 30 built by WBS.

This followed the revelation of non-compliance with fire safety standards in a number of  schools built under the department's “rapid build” programme between 2009 and 2013.

The Department said it had received final reports in six cases and 40 initial reports, which identified various housekeeping, maintenance and remedial works to be addressed.

Housekeeping and maintenance issues were identified in all schools, and small scale remedial issues were identified in many schools, typically relating to the absence of appropriate maintenance and refurbishment of fire doors and inadequate or absence of fire-stopping around fire doors.

More extensive remedial issues were identified in eight “rapid build” schools built between 2009 and 2013, a Department statement said.

The Department said all the fire safety reports received by the Department had been provided to school authorities, patrons and fire officers.

Following on from this fire safety assessment programme, the  discovery last week at Ardgillan Community School in Balbriggan has led to a new round of structural checks, announced by the Department yesterday.

The Department said that all  time the number one priority was the safety of students and staff. has contacted WBS for comment

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