In response to the contention by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan's spokesperson that the deferral of the opening of Castlebar ETNS is 'a misplaced effort to apportion blame for the consequences of [Educate Together's] own decisions upon the Department of Education and Skills', Educate Together would like to clarify the following points.
At no time did Educate Together enter into an agreement with the Department of Education and Skills that the long-term accommodation of the school would be the site of the abandoned Burren National School which is over 8 kilometres outside the town.
The Department did not issue a letter of recognition that contained any such condition at the time it announced the new school in February. In fact, no letter of recognition ever issued.
Educate Together only received correspondence from the Department on 24 August 2015 requiring formal confirmation that this location would be the long term accommodation as a condition for the school to open in temporary accommodation on 1 September 2015. This was one week before the school was due to open.
For the Minister’s spokesperson to suggest that Educate Together had somehow reneged on a prior agreement is totally unjustified as the following timeline clearly demonstrates-
- November 2014: Educate Together agreed to engage in a process regarding opening a school in Castlebar. As part of this process, it agreed to explore the old building at the Burren as an option
- February 2015: Educate Together, having explored the option and consulted the views of parents seeking places in the school, informed the Department that the parents indicated that they would not send their children to this location. This opinion was widely shared in the greater community
- March 2015: Educate Together again informed the Department that the location was unsuitable
- June 2015: Educate Together again informed the Department that the location was unsuitable
- August 2015:
– The Department rejected a proposal to allow the school to open and use its first year to sort out its long-term accommodation needs
– Educate Together was given the option to formally accept the Burren site as a long-term option or to agree to defer the opening of the school for a year
– Faced with this dilemma, Educate Together again consulted the parents and on their direction, opted to defer the opening of the school to next year
– The deferral of the school has been imposed by the requirements of the Department and was not sought by Educate Together.
Educate Together had prepared and was ready to open the school in temporary accommodation in Castlebar town next Monday. Furniture was ready, a principal had been employed and children were excited. This has now all been dashed by the unilateral action of the Department.
Not only is the location of the building unsuitable, the building itself is also totally unsuitable – it does not even have proper sanitary facilities. No building work has been carried out on the building thus confirming that it was not intended to be fit for use this September.
The former Burren National School – proposed location for Castlebar ETNS