Accommodation of Harold's Cross Educate Together Secondary School | Commencement Matter

9 December 2020

Ivana Bacik

Senator Ivana Bacik:

I welcome the Minister to the House and thank her for appearing in person to address this Commencement matter. It calls for an update on the status of a school's application for the construction of a permanent building and a timeline for the commencement of construction. The school, details of which I have supplied, is the new Harold's Cross Educate Together Secondary School, ETSS, which opened in August 2020 with a view to eventually teaching 1,000 secondary school pupils. It will be a big school. It is currently housed in temporary buildings and awaits the granting of permission to construct permanent accommodation. Staff, parents and students alike are eager for construction of the permanent buildings to begin.

The planning application is currently at stage 2a. The principal contacted me in October to express his concern that the planning application has not yet been lodged and to ask me to contact the Department. I wrote to the Department and received an acknowledgment. The school community is conscious of the urgency of the matter, as am I. The school is located at 151 Harold's Cross Road, just beside Harold's Cross Park, south of the canal in Dublin 6W. As I have noted, it is a new secondary school. It opened in August 2020 following a concerted campaign for the opening of a new Educate Together secondary school in the area. It is my own area and I campaigned for it alongside many other parents. We were disappointed that the catchment did not include Dublin 8 and Dublin 12. It encompasses Dublin 6-Clonskeagh and Dublin 6W.

The school has four mainstream classrooms and two specialist rooms. This is a complex matter because, as the Minister will be aware, the school is on temporary accommodation which is shared with two primary schools, Harold's Cross Educate Together National School and Harcourt Terrace Educate Together National School. There are three schools in temporary accommodation on the premises. All are due to be moved to permanent accommodation. The secondary school will have permanent school accommodation which will ultimately cater for 1,000 students. There will also eventually be a national school for 400 students on a shared campus.

Five-year planning permission for temporary accommodation for all three schools was granted in August 2018 and is due to expire in 2023. The school community feels very strongly that while the students of 2020-21, this year's first years, have commenced their second level education in temporary accommodation, they should not have to finish it there when they complete their leaving certificate in 2026.

Looking ahead, the school is very concerned that the planning application will need to be submitted in early 2021, which is almost upon us. This expectation arises from the likelihood that planning permission will be appealed to An Bord Pleanála if it is granted by Dublin City Council. The school is working backwards from the decision process and is planning practically, as it should. The principal, Mr. Pádraig Conaty, has asked me to raise this matter with the Minister on behalf of the school community, parents and teachers and to seek a timeline.

Minister Norma Foley:

I thank the Senator for raising this matter and allowing me to provide the House with an update on the current position regarding the provision of a permanent school building for Harold's Cross Educate Together Secondary School. Harold's Cross ETSS is a co-educational second level school which will provide 1,000 post-primary school places and a four-classroom special educational needs unit to serve the two school planning areas of Dublin 6-Clonskeagh and Dublin 6W.

As the Senator has outlined, the school opened its doors to its first intake of pupils in September 2020. Students have been accommodated in interim accommodation on the site of the former greyhound racing stadium at Harold's Cross. This will be the permanent location of the school. The site will also form the campus for Harold's Cross Educate Together National School, which is also currently in interim accommodation on the site.

The joint building project for both schools is undergoing advanced architectural planning. An initial design for the campus was previously presented to Dublin City Council in a pre-planning meeting in August 2019. Various changes to the design were subsequently required and a further pre-planning meeting with Dublin City Council is now being sought. Provided Dublin City Council is receptive to the revised design, it is intended that the planning application will be lodged by the middle of the first quarter of 2021. A previous planning permission for interim accommodation on the site was appealed to An Bord Pleanála, as the Senator will be aware. There is a strong possibility that once secured, planning permission for the permanent build could also be appealed to An Bord Pleanála. However, once planning permission is secured, the project for both schools will be progressed to tender and construction stages. Until planning permission is secured, it would be premature to estimate the timeframe for tender and construction of the two schools. However, the management authorities of the two schools will be kept fully informed as the process progresses.

Senator Ivana Bacik:

I thank the Minister for the update. It is good to hear some clarity on the date on which the planning application is expected to be lodged. I will certainly keep in touch with the Minister on this issue on behalf of the school, if requested to do so. I am very conscious that there will be significant demand for places in the school in the coming years. The authorities are particularly anxious to expedite matters because no space is available in the current temporary accommodation for any incoming students in September 2022. That is the board of management's projection, which makes the matter urgent.

I should have said that while three schools are currently housed in temporary accommodation, there will ultimately be one primary school on the site, Harold's Cross Educate Together National School, along with the secondary school. The Harcourt Terrace Educate Together National School will be moving to its own permanent accommodation on the site of the old Garda station on Harcourt Terrace. There are currently three schools at the Harold's Cross site, however, so the situation is particularly complex and there is a pressing need.

I thank the Minister for the update. I will keep in contact with her and the Department on this matter.