The following letter was received from the Building and Planning Unit of the DES in response to questions the five Wicklow TDs asked on our behalf (click on the file to open):
Press Release: Brand new, three-storey primary school building lies empty for a year because of a dispute between the DES and WBS
10th May 2021
Brand new, three-storey primary school building lies empty for a year because of a dispute between the DES and WBS
Students and staff of Greystones Community National School in Co Wicklow are being denied access to their new school building, completed a year ago, and are being forced to continue their education in prefabs where they’ve been for six years. This is happening all because of a dispute between the DES and Western Building Systems (WBS). The cause of this dispute is unknown; it is deemed private and confidential.
“Would you be ok with your children attending school on a building site, in prefabs, even though their new school building was completed a year ago and is now lying empty? Being told over and over again that they can’t move into the new building because of a dispute between the DES and the builder?” These are the questions of a parent whose children are attending Greystones Community National School (Greystones CNS) in Co Wicklow.
This is a story that started with hope, a leap of faith and new beginnings for children, parents and teachers back in September 2015 when 20 Junior Infant “apples” started their primary school education in a newly appointed KWETB community school. Six years on, these children, now nearing the end of 4th Class, are still waiting to move into their new school building. A building that has been completed for almost a year but lies empty while they, and their younger school mates, continue to be educated in prefabs surrounded by a noisy construction site of yet more prefabs being installed for the new school year. A necessary contingency plan in case the dispute isn’t settled and they don’t get into their new building.
What has gone wrong? Why can’t the school move into the new building?
This is also a story about bad decisions and taxpayers’ money wasted. Bad decisions made by the Department of Education and Skills (DES). Decisions which include:
Taxpayers’ money wasted
Since Greystones CNS first occupied prefabs on the grounds of Greystones Rugby Club in October 2015, the DES has spent almost €1million in rent to the rugby club. This does not include the cost to the taxpayer of building and constructing the prefabs which have increased in number each year as the school grows. Money spent and wasted while a brand new, state of the art, three-storey school building lies idle.
A fabulous school continually let down by the DES
Greystones CNS is a fabulous school run by dedicated, energetic and creative teachers and staff. The children are learning in a wonderful ethos of equality, respect, care, excellence in education and community.
But these teachers and staff continue to be treated abysmally by the DES, and the children are being so badly let down by the adults who are charged with the responsibility of offering them a safe and settled environment in which to grow and learn.
“I have zero confidence or faith in anything the DES says. I do not accept their proposed plans and processes. I am calling for a swift and absolute result to the issue that serves the primary stakeholders in this, the children, who have been treated with utter disdain.” A parent of children at Greystones CNS.
Does the responsibility of these bad decisions lie solely with Norma Foley TD, the Minister in charge of the DES? Should we be asking what role the Planning and Building Unit of the DES has in this story? Is it this unit that makes the decisions and tells the Minister what to say and how to respond? Is this unit completely ignorant of the ramifications of its decisions?
Isn’t it time to call time on what seems like systematic failures within the DES? To demand consultation, transparency and accountability?
Not an isolated case
This is a story that is echoed around the country and not unique to Greystones CNS. A department’s consistent failure to provide adequate learning environments for the young people of this country at both primary and second level. A consistent failure to involve staff and parents about decisions being made and the consequences of these decisions. Parents and teachers who are part of the electorate body. Students and pupils who in a few years will join that electorate body. What is the DES teaching today’s children about equality, respect, care, excellence in education and community?
Notes to Press Release
Timeline for the construction of Greystones CNS School Building
The school’s early days:
Problems start to arise:
The need for a conciliator:
Construction of more prefabs at Greystones Rugby Club:
The cost of temporary school accommodation:
Contacts at Greystones CNS: