Safety fears for dozens of schools after fire audits show breaches
Safety fears have been raised for thousands of school children after the Department of Education announced it will carry out fire audits at more than two dozen schools around the country built over the last 20 years.
It comes as a fire safety audit found breaches of standards at five recently-built primary schools.
The buildings were meant to provide 60 minutes of fire retardation to allow them to be evacuated.
However the audit found the actual construction meant the level of retardation would be less.
The schools are in Dublin, Wicklow, and Mullingar, and were built under a Rapid Build programme in 2008 by the same construction company.
They are Powerstown ETNS in Dublin, Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha, Greystones, Mullingar Educate Together NS and Belmayne Educate Together NS and St Francis of Assissi National School, both in Belmayne in Dublin.
Of those schools where failings were found, a semi-permanent building in Powerstown, Dublin, has since been replaced with a new school building completed earlier this year.
The two schools in Belmayne were constructed as semi-permanent accommodation pending the construction of larger permanent build schools on another site in Belmayne.
These semi-permanent buildings are owned by Western Building Systems and are leased by the department.
Construction of the permanent buildings is scheduled to commence shortly and will be completed in 2018.
However, both Greystones and Mullingar are permanent schools and are owned by the department.
The Greystones building was extended by the department in 2015 and the Mullingar building is currently being refurbished and extended.
The department said: “In summary, the findings of these reports indicated issues of insufficient compliance with some requirements of the fire safety certificates in relation to fire retardation in those buildings.
“The reports found that while the designs which underpinned the Fire Safety Certificates required that the buildings would provide 60 minutes of retardation to facilitate evacuation, the actual quality of construction indicated a level of retardation less than this.”
The department said it was important to note “this is not a finding that the buildings are dangerous, it is a finding that the buildings do not comply with the detailed requirements of the Fire Safety Certificates”.
Remedial work is due to be carried out shortly in the four remaining schools and the department said it has, and continues, to engage continuously with local fire officers.
The audits at each of the five schools were commissioned after an issue arose in respect of Rush/Lusk ETNS in October 2015, which was built by the same company in 2008.
The department said remedial work at the two Belmayne schools is due to being later this month, while work will begin in Mullingar ETNS in six weeks’ time.
Remedial work will commence at Gaelscoil na nCloth Liath at the end of October.