Act now to ensure that the students of the Firhouse Educate Together Secondary School have accommodation within their catchment area in September. Immediately arrange the promised temporary site so that these children are not left out in the cold
The Firhouse Educate Together Secondary School community has been left reeling with the news that suitable accommodation for their school is not in place for September, as promised by the Department of Education and Skills. Parents/Guardians, students, the Board of Management, the staff team and supporters are all calling on an immediate, appropriate solution to ensure children are not left out in the cold with no school this September. Having been accommodated to date on the campus of two co-located National schools, plans have been continually delayed in both acquisition and planning for the permanent School building. A permanent site has now been secured which was warmly welcomed and the Board of Management, parents/guardians, students and the staff team were promised a temporary solution in the locality pending the construction of the new school, expected to take up to 24 months.
Instead they are dismayed to learn that the Department of Education is now proposing to require children to travel to a site in Citywest/Saggart, located far beyond the school catchment area, until the school is built. A bus funded by the Department is proposed to carry the children from Firhouse to Citywest and back.
Conor Harrison, Chairperson of the Board of Management said: “This proposal was already put forward by the Department and rejected by both the Board of Management and school community back in December 2019, as wholly inappropriate. We are incredibly disappointed and dismayed to see it being put back on the table again. It shows a staggering lack of imagination or will to follow through and secure an accommodation that will not impact so negatively on our students, their families and the staff team.”
He emphasised: “A site was identified locally to accommodate the school temporarily, with considerable time and expense already invested in preparing and submitting plans. Suddenly there is no mention of this option and we are asking the Department to urgently explain their silence and set out clearly if and why this cannot be pursued as intended?”
Parents including, Eoghan Looney, expressed anger and frustration at the DES proposal: “This feels like a kick in the teeth. Our children can currently access their school by walking or bike. We were told a local option was being pursued and now there is this news at the 11th hour, and in the middle of a public crisis.” Mr Looney continued: “What if a child misses this proposed bus to ferry them out to Citywest, or gets sick in school? We can’t drive them as we both work full time, and many other parents/guardians are in the same boat. Many of us don’t have any direct commuting options for Citywest. What about extracurricular activities, sports, drama, etc.? All these will be compromised and that’s unacceptable. Why should our children suffer? The Department needs to engage with us meaningfully, and find a solution to continue accommodation of the school locally.”
Another parent June*, who is one of a number of parents whose child has healthcare needs, laments the proposal as a non-starter for her child. “My child has to attend medical appointments and that means sometimes arriving late or leaving class early. We simply can’t manage this with a site so far away. This proposal puts us in an incredibly tough situation with no other current options for alternative schooling at this short notice, besides the fact that it would break our heart to have to leave this wonderful school. Our levels of anxiety are through the roof and this feels like a callous disregard of our child’s rights by the Department. It can’t go ahead.”
The signatories of this petition are calling on the Department of Education and Skills to engage with the school urgently to quickly secure accommodations that will not fracture a new and much needed local school in which the students have been blossoming despite the adversity it has faced since opening.
*Name changed to protect the confidentiality of parent and child.
To follow the campaign see their facebook page – www.facebook.com/SOSFirhouseEducateTogetherSS/