Wednesday 22 January 2020

Master plan being drawn up for new school building

Mary Fogarty

The principal of North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School said that a 'master planning process' for a new school building is ongoing and nearly finished.

Principal Jonathan Browner said that KSN Project Management were asked to create a plan to show how both Bray Institute of Further Education and NWETSS could be positioned on the Novara Road site currently occupied by BIFE.

'We are positive, upbeat and hopeful that the Department of Education is bringing this to fruition,' said Mr Browner.

The school has been operating from a building on Putland Road and awaiting a new school premises since it opened in September 2016. The school population is growing each year, and the lease on the current building is coming to an end in June. The school currently has 300 pupils and expects to ultimately have a student body of 1,000 pupils.

The Kildare Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) said in 2018 that it does not wish to have the new secondary school building co-located on the campus of BIFE. However, the Minister for Education directed the KWETB to cooperate with plans for the new building.

Representatives from the school attended a briefing recently with KSN Project Management in the offices of the Department of Education in Tullamore. They were given an opportunity to see an indicative outline of the master plan and to comment on this. The school was asked not to release details into the public domain and they have abided by that request.

A traffic survey recently undertaken by the school community will feed into the master plan process. Engagement between officials in Wicklow County Council and the department continues.

Any development on Novara Road would require planning permission, with detailed plans submitted to the council. Those plans would be available to the general public for viewing and to make submissions.

'We would point out that the Department of Education and Skills has responsibility for all decisions pertaining to the location and financing of schools and other facilities,' said Mr Browner. 'The site on Novara Avenue was not sought by Educate Together nor by the Board of Management of our school. However, the Board has welcomed the site as being ideal in terms of access to transport links given that over 50 per cent of our students are from Bray. Many of our students may also want to access BIFE after the Leaving Certificate.'

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin TD met with NWETSS in December, together with Cllrs Steven Matthews and Lourda Scott, to discuss the delivery of a new school.

'The students, parents and staff of North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School have been very poorly treated by the Department of Education and their progress in delivering the new school has been slow and frustrating,' said Cllr Steven Matthews.

'I have written to the last two Ministers for Education on several occasions to request better communication and support and urgency in delivering their commitment to construct a new school for Educate Together.'

With the school operating from a temporary location, Cllr Steven Matthews said that the facilities at the school are presently not suitable, and students are being denied access to the full range of education opportunities that Educate Together wishes to provide.

'In particular, NWETSS provides a valuable ASD unit in their resource centre for children with autism,' said Cllr Lourda Scott.

'This unit is currently full and they cannot open an additional class until they move to permanent premises. Families in the area, with children with autism are desperate for more educational support and unfortunately cannot be accommodated until this issue is resolved.'

Deputy Martin said that she has met with the minister to demand action on their 2016 commitment to construct the new school, to finalise design plans and proceed to a planning application to Wicklow County Council.

Bray People