Eniskillen teachers: 'Two hours per week travelling between schools'
Teachers at a school in County Fermanagh are spending up to two hours per week travelling between classes.
Enniskillen Royal Grammar School is operating on a split site following the amalgamation of two schools in the town.
The decision to close Portora Royal and the Collegiate Grammar Schools in 2014 divided the community.
A petition signed by thousands of opponents to the plan was presented at Stormont.
The school now has a single identity, but the two buildings at Cooper Crescent and Lough Shore Road are on opposite sides of Enniskillen.
Teachers raised their concerns at a recent meeting with the school’s governors.
One teacher said they spent two hours each week travelling between sites, while another said they moved between schools four times in one day.
They said preparation time, lunch breaks and teaching time were being lost and providing cover for teachers who leave early or arrive late affects more than 100 classes a week.
It is claimed that staff in the same departments communicate by email, rather than meeting face-to-face.
The governors were told the situation was putting staff under “immense stress and pressure”.
The school decided not to amalgamate every year group this year, in order to avoid disrupting pupils taking exams.
The principal of Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, Elizabeth Armstrong, said the situation would improve next year, when the school became fully integrated.
She said that the split site was always going to cause difficulties, which they had tried to minimise, but added that it was up to the Department of Education to fulfil its promise of a new school.
“We as a school are up and running, we are making the most of the opportunities we have, we are doing our best to minimise the impact, but our young people, our staff and our community need this new-build and it’s important that it’s expedited as quickly as possible,” she said.
Last month, the Department for Education announced that Portora was the preferred location, after conducting a technical feasibility report on site options for a new school.
However, the process of completing a business case, appointing a design team, obtaining planning permission, and tendering for contractors can take many years before construction can begin.
Another school in Enniskillen, Devenish College, has experienced years of delays as it waits for a new building.
Although a site was purchased in 2004, it took 10 years for an economic appraisal to be approved.
Construction was supposed to start last year, but was put back by bad weather.
It is now expected that building work will begin in the next financial year and that the school will be finished in 2019.
‘Blighted by delays’
Peter Little, the head of the board of governors at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, said he would be very disappointed if pupils who have just started at the school “will not see the fruition of a new building”.
“New pupils who have come in this year and new pupils who will join us in September, they will be amongst the first cohort that will have a new building, that will be the sort of timescale that I would envisage,” he said, adding that, while there was no timetable in place yet, they were putting pressure on the Department of Education.
“This town has been blighted, to an extent, by delays in new school buildings,” he said.
“We hope that this one won’t be as slow. I’m fully aware it’s going to take some time, but it’s essential that we get a start to the work.”
Source: BBC News – Northern Ireland