I am writing to you to express my concerns regarding the recent decision made by you, the Department of Education and Skills (DES), to accommodate the newly announced Greystones Community College (GCC) within the building for the Greystones Community National School (GCNS). I have ___ child(ren) attending GCNS, currently located in prefabs on the grounds of the Rugby Club, Mill Road, Greystones, Co. Wicklow. I received an email last week from our Patron, the KWETB, and the school Board of Management informing all parents that you, DES, had decided that GCC would be temporarily accommodated within the new GCNS building.
Prior to this decision parents from both schools were told by the KWETB that their preferred option for temporary GCC accommodation would be the prefabs that GCNS currently occupy but are due to vacate shortly. This was and still is the preferred option for all parties concerned. The decision to accommodate GCC in the same building as GCNS has raised a number of questions and concerns among the parent body of both school communities.
My concerns in relation to accommodating the secondary school in the GCNS building are:
1.Planning Permission The planning permission granted (file ref: 17/780) on the 02nd October 2017, for the development of the Greystones Community National School building in Charlesland, was subject to 14 conditions. Condition number 1 states, “This permission refers to the development as described in the documents lodged, save as the conditions here under require.”
The documents lodged by the applicant (The Mininster of Education & Skills) describe the development as, “New Greystones Community National School (Roll No.204731) consisting of as new 3-storey, 24-classroom 4,673sq.m primary school……”
When will the new planning permission be lodged, to facilitate the change of use to a mixed primary and post-primary school?
2.Delay to the occupancy of the new building for GCNS. The original completion date for the primary school was June 2019. It is now March 2020 and we are still awaiting a move in date. As a result, our children are still without a library, a sports hall, adequate SEN rooms, playground facilities etc.
Can the DES guarantee that issues (including but not limited to planning & technical) around the decision to change the development to a mixed use primary and post-primary school development, will not delay the move of the primary school into its permanent home before the current school year is over and guarantee that the children and teachers of GCNS will be the first occupants of their new building? 3.Reduced access to facilities for the primary school children. The new building offers possibilities to our children that cannot be made available in temporary accommodation. These include a library, sports/drama hall, space for after school activities, playgrounds etc.
Can the DES guarantee that full access for GCNS students and teachers to these spaces in the building will not be affected or reduced?
4.Risk that GCC will be accommodated for more than one year. The children of GCNS have spent the last four and a half years in prefabs, so I am only too aware of how long the building process can take.
Can the DES guarantee that GCC will only be accommodated in the GCNS school building for no more than one school year? Is there an accommodation plan in place for GCC for the school year 2021/22?
5.Safety of the primary school children. There is a material difference in capacity and maturity between primary school children and post primary school children. GCNS has strict policies and procedures in place that ensure the safety of our children. Many of these policies are not applicable at post primary level and vice versa for example there are exceptions to reporting requirements for mandated persons under section 14(3) of the Children First 2015, which would not apply at primary level. I am concerned that my child will be exposed to maturational behaviours and practices that are not appropriate for young children.
Can the DES guarantee that GCNS will be able to influence the policies and behaviour being adopted by the post-primary school students, to ensure they are appropriate for a primary school environment, while they are accommodated within the GCNS building?
If the above guarantees cannot be delivered upon, I request that the decision to accommodate GCC within the GCNS school building for the 2020/2021 school year be reversed and that GCC is located back to the existing prefabs at the Greystones Rugby Club.
I anxiously await your response and appreciate your assistance with this matter,