Pic: Gaelcholáiste Mhaigh Nuad, Supplied
Parents of students at a new Kildare school have claimed that the Department of Education is discriminating against its students, and is preventing them from undertaking practical subjects such as science and woodwork.
Gaelcholáiste Mhaigh Nuad (GCM) was originally meant to open in September 2019, but the opening was deferred by the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board (KWETB) to September 2020.
When GCM finally opened on this date, 24 students started at the school in temporary accommodation located over Manor Mills Shopping Centre.
A spokesperson for the parents of GCM, Sive Dowling, explained to the Leinster Leader that the original planned premises, the Maynooth Post Primary/Maynooth Community College (MPP/MCC) building, has now been vacant since January 2021 and the school remains in its temporary accommodation, despite a new intake of 44 students to their number.
Ms Dowling explained: "The families of enrolled students, who have been very patient with this temporary arrangement, are now becoming gravely concerned as all 66 students of GCM are currently unable to complete the practical modules of their Junior Cycle course work as they are unable to access appropriate facilities.
"Parents of students at the school have engaged directly with the KWETB through the school’s active parents association (PA), and while the KWETB have met with parents and had previously confirmed the availability of temporary facilities for the 21/22 academic year, these facilities have not materialised and there is no indication of a timeline in relation to when these facilities will be made available."
Ms Dowling also detailed that, at present, parents are asking the question why their children are being discriminated against based on their decision to choose a newly-established Irish medium school as their choice of secondary education.
She claimed: "Other local schools such as the MPP And MCC have had millions spent on their students to ensure appropriate facilities. Schools in neighbouring Meath such as Colaiste Rioga (Dunshaughlin) and Enfield Community College have also been suitably facilitated, so the question must be asked why are our children being ignored?
"On top of this Stepping Stones School which is currently based in Kilcloon, Co Meath has been offered permanent accommodation at the old MPP/MCC building and work has already begun on their upgrades, despite the PA being told that delays in relation to our own school is due to Covid and lack of access to trades people etc... some how these delays do not appear to be hampering other schools."
The PA of the school added that it is now asking local representatives to support them in engaging with the KWETB and the Department Of Education to ensure that the school and its students "get the same consideration that any other school in Ireland should, regardless of its patronage".
"Our children deserve the same facilities as other children their age and the right to pursue important STEM subjects which could be the basis of their future careers," it added.
The PA has outlined its three main demands: a final decision on how to address the issue of access to practical rooms for our children (They added: "Now, not after Halloween, not after Christmas and not in the new year!"), a clear and realistic timeline to ensure the children’s access to these facilities, and a reasonable timeline/deadline for GCM to move into their permanent school building and assurances that the site will be fit for purpose.
In addition, the PA revealed that it did receive a reply back from the KWETB regarding their situation, but referred to it as a "less than adequate response," as the group did not provide a timeframe for works to take place at GCM.
Written by KWETB's Director of Schools, Ken Scully, it read: "Thank you for your correspondence outlining your concerns in relation to the accommodation for the practical subjects of Woodwork and Science for Gaelcholáiste Mhaigh Nuad.
"KWETB fully acknowledges and appreciates the challenges concerning a deficit of practical classrooms and the difficulty of providing all practical subjects within the confines of the schools’ current location in Manor Mills.
"KWETB is delighted that the preparations to deliver the practical subjects of Home Economics and Art in the current Manor Mills site are nearing completion.
"KWETB has secured approval from the Department of Education and Skills and has appointed a consultant to identify the scope of works necessary to offer Woodwork and Science in the former MCC/MPP school building.
"We are not currently in a position to offer any guaranteed timeframe for these works to be completed."
It concluded: "KWETB has confirmed to the school principal that GCMN remains the priority for the vacated building and this continues to be the case."
The Leinster Leader also contacted the Dept of Education for comment on the situation, but received no reply.
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