A local school has used an online video to challenge the Department of Education over delays to a long-awaited extension project.
Staff at Kilbride Central Primary near Ballyclare took the unprecedented step amid fears that plans for a much-needed new school hall/canteen could be shelved due to budget cuts.
Principal Christopher Currie, who took over at the school two-and-a-half years ago, revealed that staff are being forced to breach health and safety regulations “on a daily basis” by using the canteen as a classroom and even using classrooms for PE sessions.
The YouTube video entitled ‘New Hall/Extension Appeal 2015’ is a reminder to the Department and the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) about the hardships facing staff and pupils every day - and a public plea for them to take action to help address the problems.
The video claims that the school has been asking for an extension for 20 years, during which time enrolment has grown from around 80 pupils to more than 130. And with that figure due to rise to 145 in September, Mr Currie says the school cannot continue to function safely without improvements to the accommodation.
“The situation is not good,” he told the Times. “We can’t go on teaching a class in the canteen. We can just about get away with it this year as we have an unusually small P7 cohort, but it will be impossible next year when we will have 23 P7s and 25 the year after that.”
The 13-minute video sees staff members outline the negative impact the current situation is having on pupils and staff, and speak about health and safety risks associated with using a school hall that is no longer fit for purpose.
It also highlights concerns raised by the Education and Training Inspectorate in 2010 about the “inadequate” school accommodation.
Mr Currie has written to Education Minister John O’Dowd to highlight the problems at the school. He has also asked the Board for a mobile classroom as a temporary fix, but says his request was turned down.
The 33-year-old, one of the youngest principals in the area, explained that an extension project for the school was approved a number of years ago, but was later shelved due to budget constraints.
And despite architects being appointed last year to draw up new plans for the extension work, he fears a shortage of funding for new capital projects will mean that his school will miss out again.
“Reading between the lines, we don’t think that we are going to get our new hall.
“Smaller schools in the area with fewer pupils have had work done over the past couple of years yet we have more pupils and have been asking for much longer but just keep getting ignored.
“We can’t continue the way we have been. We badly need this work done,” he said.
Responding to concerns raised by Mr Currie, a spokesperson for the NEELB said the Board is aware of issues in respect of the accommodation at the school.
“The Board has a scheme designed which would significantly address these issues, however the resources available (in respect of both capital and maintenance) are insufficient in addressing these needs at this time,” she explained.
“The scheme to address the issues at Kilbride Central Primary School will be considered along with all other presenting priorities for consideration for inclusion in the 2015/16 programme of work as and when budget allocations are confirmed by the Department of Education.”
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