Concerns raised over “unacceptable” conditions at Sandymount schoolMike Finnerty 31 Jan 2024
Dublin Bay South TDs Chris Andrews and Ivana Bacik have raised the issue of the Enable Ireland school in Sandymount, which provides support to those with special educational needs, suffering from leaks and poor conditions.
Speaking in the Dáil, the Sinn Féin and Labour TDs discussed the issues affecting the school, such as leaky roofs, holes in the ceilings and walls, and rooms becoming unusable due to general deterioration.
The TDs cited the work of principal Jennifer Doyle and her staff who “go above and beyond” in providing an education to students in difficult conditions.
Speaking in the Dáil, Andrews told the chamber that five students in wheelchairs must have their classes in the library as there is a leak in their designated classroom.
“The five students are all in wheelchairs and the classroom they normally use is a soft playroom, which allows the children to get out of their wheelchairs, stretch and reset themselves. The students need the breaks from the wheelchairs; the breaks out of the wheelchairs cannot take place in the library.”
Andrews said the conditions have gotten worse over the last six months, and while stating that the Department of Education are aware of the issue, he questioned the urgency of the Department in solving it.
Bacik said “we cannot stand over this in Ireland in 2024” and discussed her visit to the school in December.
“The building is in an appalling condition. There are holes in the ceilings and walls. There are leaking ceilings and I saw the buckets the school staff are placing because rain is coming through – conditions are deteriorating at a very rapid pace.”
The Labour leader stressed the importance of resolving the issue as the conditions are impacting not only affecting the education of the students, but also their treatment and therapeutic intervention.
Fine Gael Minister of State Martin Heydon took the question on behalf of Minister for Education Norma Foley, and said “provison for children with special educational needs is a priority for the Department of Education.”
While acknowledging the problems at the school, he said that the school did not fall under the remit of the Department of Education and the school in question did not apply for an additional school accommodation scheme.
In response to the questions, Heydon said “the current priority under the ASA scheme is the provision of essential classroom accommodation to meet demographic demand or where an additional post is being appointed.”
Both Bacik and Andrews took issue with Heydon implying the issue was a matter of bureaucracy.
Bacik said it was “unacceptable” that an administrative reason was why the repairs could not be carried out until summer.
She said that the building wasn’t especially large, but children are “being deprived” of a major part of the facilities available to them and work must be carried out “urgently.”
“It is so important that children have access to the full facilities that should be available to them in the school, they are currently being deprived of those facilities,” she said.
Andrews said the school has been left “high and dry” by Government and stated that the Department of Education “needs to just get on and do it.”
Heydon asserted that the Department has been engaging with the school, but said that the school should apply for the scheme that allows works to be carried out in the summer months.
With school still in session until June, he said that the school can avail of small measures or interventions to tackle the issue in the short term before tackling the issue more in-depth as part of the summer works scheme. In 2023, it was reported that funding lapses at the Department of Education caused schools operated by Educate Together such as Harold’s Cross ETNS and Harold’s Cross ETSS in Dublin 6, and Shellybanks ETNS and Sandymount Park ETSS in Dublin 4 to reduce class sizes.
Paula Mulhall, principal of Sandymount Park Educate Together Secondary School told the Irish Independent at the time “this delay will inevitably have a negative impact on the development of our school.”
“Due to the limitations of our interim accommodation, our enrolment numbers are restricted and we have a long waitlist of disappointed students whose first preference is to join our school.”