Friday 13 December 2019

Pupils stuck in 1948 building despite green light for revamp

Katherine Donnelly

In the cramped classrooms of a school built for another era, the pupils and teachers of St Catherine's are an uncomfortable example of poor school design.

Their 62-year-old school in Aughrim, Co Galway, is -- according to the Department of Education -- one of the country's most deserving of a new building.

But St Catherine's has been waiting for the go-ahead to make a fresh start for almost three years.

This week, the department approved a fifth prefab to help meet the school's emergency accommodation needs.

There are 120 pupils, eight teachers and two special needs assistants at St Catherine's, up from 70 pupils in the mid-1990s.


But the school is still in its original 1948 building, with the addition of four pre-fabs, in which most of the classrooms are housed.

In 2007, the department's inspectors witnessed classroom congestion, a deficit of auxiliary rooms, lack of space in the staff room and poor storage.

The inspectors also noted that prefabs restricted the play area and created a necessity for a high level of supervision at break times.

Although a new building was deemed a high priority, St Catherine's has had to watch other, lower priority, schools leapfrog over them to get their new building.

Principal Gareth Heagney said: "The more time that passes, the more money that will have to be spent to keep the current building up to speed. The classrooms are extremely overcrowded."

He said it was becoming increasingly difficult to provide some aspects of the curriculum due to the lack of space and facilities.

"We want to know that we are being considered seriously", he said.

Irish Independent

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