Urgent need for funds to refurbish school building

By Maurice Garvey

A PRINCIPAL is going to great heights to raise funds for his outdated school building – by preparing to scale one of the highest mountain peaks in the Alps.

Pádhraic Gibbons, Principal of Our Lady’s Mercy Secondary School in Drimnagh, is currently training to climb the 14,600 ft Matterhorn in Switzerland in July.

Our Lady Of Mercy 01

Our Lady's Mercy Student Council

In his second year as principal at OLM, Gibbons said there is an “urgent need for funds to refurbish” the school’s 1940 building, which is home to 370 pupils.

“I came in to the job with my eyes open. We are trying to deliver quality and standards here, with wonderful honest students and amazing teachers that go above and beyond, but it is frustrating,” said Gibbons.

“We badly need to upgrade our ICT equipment, and I wish we had finances to fix the bathrooms, which are below humane standards. Our last two applications for works on the bathrooms were rejected. Our heating bills are also astronomical.”

Although the school have had architects put together a building and expansion plan, which was signed off by trustee approval, they have not received backing from the State.

Recently, Minister for Education Richard Bruton revealed plans to build 42 new schools in the country, but existing schools like OLM have to make do for the foreseeable future.

Better opportunities abroad

Another major area of concern for schools right now is teacher recruitment, with many new graduates enticed by better opportunities abroad.

Gibbons cites a number of factors including “Abu Dhabi” and “high rents in Dublin” for young teachers.

“The conditions of employment after 2011 - with no guaranteed contract after two years - has seen a lot of graduates go the places like the UK and beyond, and there is a lack of graduates in maths, science and languages.

“There is also the Dublin factor. For me, it is a privilege to work in a Deis school in Dublin 12, for some graduates it may not seem as appealing. To make serious inroads, we need capital investment and to appoint qualified teachers.”

Currently at OLM, teachers are forced to ‘double up’ in certain classes.

“In some situations, we have two fifth year classes in maths, Irish and French, one teacher for 50 to 60 students. I’m doing an extra 11 and a half hours teaching a week, the Deputy Principal is doing over 21 hours, every teacher here is going above and beyond.”

External pressures also led to the recent formation of a transition year and an ASD unit for three boys, the latter which came with the promise of resources.

All about resources

“We have been approved since September for a pre-fab including a sensory room. It is now April and we have no formal approval. The ASD unit is fantastic for the school and they are wonderful boys, but it is all about resources.

“The knock-on effect is they are currently in an ex-classroom, which is not suitable for their needs and takes away one less room. We already borrow seven classes from Our Lady’s Good Counsel.”

Principal Gibbons is appealing to the community and past pupils for support the fundraising and challenge. He has some previous experience mountain climbing in the Alps, the last jaunt was some 15 years ago.

For more information visit www.ifundraise.ie/3917_olm-matterhorn-fundraising-challenge.html or watch Gibbons ‘Rocky’ style video on YouTube OLM Drimnagh.

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