Community rallies round Rathcoole Primary

Rathcoole Primary School. Pic by Google.
Rathcoole Primary School. Pic by Google.

Staff at Rathcoole Primary School have been overwhelmed by the generous support they have received from the community after the impact of funding cuts was highlighted.

Donations have been mounting up after acting principal Emma Quinn appeared on BBC Newsline to detail the effect of budgetary constraints on the Derrycoole Way school.

Mrs Quinn explained how the school was struggling to pay for maintenance works such as painting classrooms, fixing broken toilets and replacing damaged carpets.

In the wake of the news item on December 4, over £2,000 has been raised by members of the public.

An online fundraising page was created on behalf of the PTFA by Vicky McGaughey. This has exceeded its target of £1,500, with over £1,600 being donated so far.

A number of donations have also been made directly to the school, including from people who do not have any ties to it, but wanted to help.

A woman who said she grew up on a “working class” estate in Belfast said she had been “touched” by the situation and sent a cheque for £50 in a bid to try and get some of the maintenance issues resolved.

Speaking to the Times, Mrs Quinn said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received and wish to thank everyone who has donated. We plan to hold a community meeting in the new year and decide how best to use the money that has been raised. There may also be community weekends where we open up the school and works such as painting and clean ups can be carried out.”

The school has 153 pupils attending from the nursery section through to Primary 7.

Mrs Quinn added: “A few years ago we had an intake of only five P1 pupils. This year we have a P1 class of 21 students. We’re developing and growing and we are definitely not closing- we’re not going anywhere!

“We are a community school and I’m proud of the support we have received from the community. Hopefully by September we can have a few of the minor works sorted at the school and then we can push on and see about getting other works completed.”

Commenting on the issue, a spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) said: “The education budget has been reduced by £240m in recent years.

“This has had a detrimental impact not only on schools budgets but on the maintenance budget and whilst EA welcomes the additional £2m that has been secured by the Department of Education for maintenance works in 2018/19, this is still not sufficient to cover the full programme of statutory, emergency and unavoidable maintenance requirements.

“In these circumstances, spending on planned and preventative maintenance across the controlled, maintained and Irish medium school estate of over 1,000 schools is increasingly challenging, however EA continues to invest in school maintenance works where possible.”

The spokesperson added: “EA has received 23 applications and at present is in the pre-construction feasibility and design stage for the replacement of the fire alarm and detection system, traffic management and car parking works and the refurbishment of the dinner hall to include replacement of single-glazed windows.”

Urging people to get behind the online fundraising appeal, Vicky McGaughey, secretary of the PTFA said: “Mrs Quinn and all the staff have done an amazing job at building this school back up to what it is now. It would be a shame to see all their hard work go to waste all because of cuts to their funding.

“Every penny will be accounted for and all will go towards more repairs within the school as there is quite a lot needing done. Nothing will go to waste.”

If you would like to make a donation, search Rathcoole Primary School on JustGiving.com