Wednesday 16 October 2019

Massive expansion for vocational college

Bunclody Vocational College
Bunclody Vocational College

Brendan Keane

Bunclody Vocational College has taken a major step towards having a massive upgrade investment with the news that the Department of Education and Skills is to devolve the school's proposed expansion plans to Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB).

In a statement issued to this newspaper the board's Chairperson, Cllr Jim Moore and its Chief Executive officer, Kevin Lewis, described the news as 'substantial progress'.

It relates to the proposal to develop a 5,200 sq metre extension of the college in addition to a further 2,300 sq metre extension of 'external requirements' which will include a play area and car parking facilities.

Cllr Moore and Mr Lewis said they expect a service level agreement (SLA) between the WWETB and the department will be finalised within the next few weeks and that will begin the devolving process.

The work will include an extension to and refurbishment of the existing school building and it's believed this work will include the development of 14 new classrooms, 5 smaller classroom, ASD rooms, specialised rooms for woodwork and metalwork, a new art room and four basketball courts.

Cllr Moore and Mr Lewis said, in their joint statement, that once completed the work will provide for an enrolment of 550 students within a facility incorporating a floor area of 6,800sq metres.

Once the SLA is in place the WWETB will then begin the process of procuring a design team for the project and the necessary statutory planning permissions will be sought.

Minister Paul Kehoe welcomed news and said it's one of the 'most needed' investments in a Wexford school.

Confirming the school has been approved for 'major investment' he said it will represent a 'huge development for Bunclody' and the surrounding areas.

'There will be a particular focus on special needs students and sports facilities,' he said.

'This is a huge endorsement of Co Wexford and comes on the back of a massive amount of work from the school authorities,' he added.

'I have argued time-and time-again for this to happen in Bunclody and finally we are seeing proper progress for the children, staff and parents.'

It's expected the design for the project could be in place within four months.

Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan is the Chairperson of the school board and she said it's a 'massively positive story' for the Bunclody area.

She told this newspaper that many people have been fighting for such a development for a long time.

'It's brilliant news for the entire area and while it's great news for the staff and parents it's the children who will really benefit and that's the most important thing,' she said.

Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy also welcomed the announcement and said a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes.

'It's fantastic news and it will benefit Bunclody enormously,' she said, while also highlighting the expanded school will benefit people living in the surrounding areas too.

'It will be a state-of-the-art school in every way when this is completed,' she said.

Deputy James Browne, who visited the school last month, described it as 'a great day' for the school.

'After years of campaigning for a new extension and department has finally given the go-ahead,' he said.

While welcoming the decision he also said it's 'long overdue'.

'The school, which has 168 students, is simply not fit for purpose,' said Deputy Browne.

'We've seen prefab built on top of prefab; to the point that students have to walk through a field to get from one building to another,' he added.

'This extension will make a huge difference for pupils and teachers.'

Enniscorthy Guardian