Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Adjournment Debate

School Closures.

11:00 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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I thank the Minister of State for coming in for this Adjournment debate.

There was a report on the RTE news at 9 o'clock a few weeks ago about the pending closure of Greendale community school in Foxfield St. John parish, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5. The coverage was of a farewell reunion of the 3,000 or so students who had passed through the school in the past 30 years. It was an astonishing turn-out on the night, with many famous faces, including former teachers such as Roddy Doyle and Paul Mercer, two of our great writers, and Brian Mullins, one of greatest Dublin athletes, who with the rest of the staff under the valiant principal, Mr. Anton Carroll, contributed so much to Greendale and the wider Kilbarrack community.

Recently a meeting was organised by the parents' association of Greendale community school. The association made disturbing points about the negative impact of the closure on the current generation of second level students in Kilbarrack. The final third year group is reaching its end, ready for its junior certificate, but when those third years transfer from Greendale to other schools, they will not have a chance to pursue the senior cycle programmes, including the LCA. Students transferring to some other schools will not be allowed to choose their key subject options until the indigenous students have made their choices first. Greendale students, who have enjoyed a school completion programme, supports and participation in the Trinity College access programme, which was a vibrant part of the Greendale community, with 1,000 adult pupils, will no longer have these facilities. Students transferring from Greendale to join transition year programmes elsewhere also face stiff charges.

The committee complained bitterly that some parents from low income households must resort to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for financial assistance. Greendale community school always made a point of taking everyone who presented to the school and giving them whatever support was necessary. That was Mr. Carroll's policy and that of his board and the staff for the past 30 years.

There has been a traumatic impact on the second level students in the east Kilbarrack area. We have the amazing situation that the sports centre, which is home to a club from the Minister of State's constituency, the famous Killester Basketball Club, one of the great national clubs which revamped it to the quality of an American university basketball championship facility, will be totally closed down. Most of all there has been a negative impact on the wider community and the grave fear of many residents, led by Mr. Thomas Moore and others, is that the whole site will fall prey to developers who will try to put a high density, high rise development because of the location's proximity to the DART.

The worst aspect of the closure process over the past three years, as Mr. Carroll, the staff and the trade union representatives made clear at the recent meeting was that the distinguished staff of 40 teachers and other educational workers, have been treated extremely badly. There has been no consultation at all, only one meeting took place. Everyone agrees that is a disgraceful way to treat such dedicated staff.

There is still time to reverse this disgraceful decision and to seek other sponsors to create a new school board that would relaunch Greendale community school. In my constituency, a major new city of 25,000 housing units is being built and they could access the Greendale site by DART so why should we close such a school?

The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy Brian Lenihan, told me that the Department would be open to any discussions on the future educational and community use of Greendale. I urge the Minister of State, as a local Deputy from the neighbouring constituency, to take vigorous action in this regard. The last time I raised this issue I proposed that all the local stakeholders and public representatives, the Kilbarrack community, Killester Basketball Club, Naomh Barróg, Kilbarrack United and all the other famous local groups, together with the local north central city council management team, led by Ms Céline Reilly and Ms Elaine Mulvenny, and the VECs, TCD, DCU and UCD come forward with a proposal for the site.

Deputy Haughey and I have served together for many years on the Northside Partnership and have wide experience of creating community development bodies based in former schools. Deputy Haughey knows that Northside Partnership and the Coolock Development Council, of which I was founding chairperson, are based in an old school building. We have done this before and I urge the Minister of State in the final months of the Government to set in train talks that will ensure the Greendale site is preserved in perpetuity as a community educational and social facility for all the people of Kilbarrack, Raheny, Donaghmede and surrounding districts.

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it provides me with an opportunity to outline to the House the current position of the Department of Education and Science with regard to the planned closure of Greendale community school, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5.

Greendale community school is located in the Howth deanery, a unit of 13 parishes in the archdiocese of Dublin. Located in Kilbarrack, Dublin 5, it was built in 1975 to accommodate 800 pupils. The school expanded quickly to exceed its enrolment capacity and an extension to bring the school's capacity up to 900 pupil places was provided by the Department of Education in the early 1980s.

In line with demographic changes in the area, the school has experienced a steady decline in enrolments in recent years. Since 1996-97, enrolment has declined by 50% from 449 students to 215 students in the 2003-04 school year. The Department officials held meetings with the trustees in 2003 to discuss the future of the school because there did not appear to be adequate pupil numbers in the locality to enable it to regenerate.

The trustees advised the Department in March 2004 that a decision had been taken to close the school in June 2007 and that there would be no further intake of pupils from September 2005. When Greendale Community School closes in 2007, ownership of the school property which is currently vested in the trustees, will revert to the Department of Education and Science. The Department is currently considering all available options in regard to the future use of the school property.

I take on board the suggestion made by Deputy Broughan and will take an active interest in the issue along the lines he has suggested. I thank the Deputy once again for raising this matter.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 22 March 2007.