No less than 10 state-of-the-art new school buildings are being handed over to Educate Together today, just two days before schools open next Monday.
These schools, built by the Department of Education’s Rapidly Developing Areas programme have been constructed in an intensive effort over the summer. Some projects have gone from green field to finished school in 14 weeks.
Today, in a whistle-stop programme, Educate Together staff, local voluntary managers and newly appointed principal teachers are meeting with builders and department officials to confirm transfer of the buildings in Gorey, Belmayne, Lucan East, Carlow, Maynooth, Greystones, Balbriggan, Mullingar, Skerries and Swords. Later over the weekend, staff and volunteers will be preparing classrooms for pupils on Monday.
A key development is the delivery of the permanent building for Bracken Educate Together National School in Balbriggan. This is the school that was opened in record time last year in an emergency programme to address a serious shortage. The story hit the headlines at home and abroad. We are delighted to say that all the undertaking made by the government to Educate Together at that time have been honoured and that the school can now develop properly in a permanent building.
These schools have been built in an entirely new fashion to previous school building programmes. They are “system built” which means that the schools are built in optimum factory conditions in modular units which are then assembled on site. The schools are permanentw with light, airy, full-sized classrooms, networked for IT with adequate extra space for special needs education and proper facilities for children with disabilities. The buildings have disabled lifts, shower units and modern security and fire systems. A feature of this construction is that it delivers very high energy efficiency which will significantly reduce school running costs in the future and minimise their carbon foot-print. They deliver very high levels of air-tightness which is a critical factor for efficiency.
Good bye to inadequate prefabs?
The performance of this programme demonstrates that the State can deliver state-of-the-art buildings for schools in a highly efficient and speedy fashion. This means that there should be no reason for the continued reliance on expensive, temporary prefabs to address school space shortages.
Continued Investment must be guaranteed
CSO and EU figures support the basic projections in the National Development Plan that there will be up to 100,000 new pupils in our education system by 2013. Despite the economic down-turn and a slowing of inward population flows, the CSO last night confirmed that there is a need for a minimum of 7,000 new school places per year in the next few years. This means that the pace of the current school building programme must be maintained and the necessary State funds ring-fenced for the purpose.
The new system of delivery of school buildings is ideally suited for this purpose.
Paul Rowe, CEO, is available for interview or comment. Please contact 01 4292500 to arrange
Notes for Editors
Educate Together is the national patron body for the Educate Together schools. These schools operate under a legal charter that oblige them to be Multi-denominational, learner-centred, co-educational and democratically run. They are fully recognised by the Department of Education and Science and operate under the same regulations and funding as other national schools. Educate Together schools adopt a human-rights and equality approach to religion and cultural issues. An ethical education programme is delivered which provides education about religious faiths but does not prefer any particular one. Parents are facilitated in running faith-formation classes outside the compulsory school day.
The first Educate Together school opened in 1978. Today, there are 56 such schools spread around the country. In the past few years, Educate Together has become the lead provider of new schools and its established schools experience very long waiting lists. It has been a pioneer in the reform of Irish primary education especially in the new schools process. It has recently announced its intention to open its first second-level school. ENDS