Rossmar hopeful of new school building
THE building used by a special needs school, described as “not fit for purpose”, will be replaced with a new build after a widely expected funding announcement is made – according to local councillors.
The Greystone Road premises of Rossmar School in Limavady were described as “not fit for purpose” by a “visibly moved” Education Minister during a recent visit.
While there has been no official confirmation from either the school or the Education Department, the Minister’s Sinn Féin party colleagues spoke with confidence at Limavady Borough Council earlier this week that funding for the new build will be announced shortly.
In his final Mayoral address to council, Sinn Féin councillor Sean McGlinchey spoke of his pride at being able to visit Rossmar as Mayor, as well as his expectation of an announcement from his party colleague and Minister John O’Dowd of funding for the special needs school.
Sinn Féin councillor, Anne Brolly, addressing the departing Mayor added: “When Rossmar get their new school, I think you should get the credit for the work you have done behind the scenes for Rossmar.”
Informed of the strong hints from councillors McGlinchey and Brolly that a new build will be forthcoming, the Principal of Rossmar Brian McLaughlin cautiously welcomed the news.
He told the Sentinel: “We have had no confirmation, but a new build is needed urgently for this school and we are very hopeful.”
O’Dowd had been asked at Stormont to use recently announced extra funding in the education budget for a new build for Rossmar by local DUP MLA George Robinson.
He said that the current condition of the school grounds was such that children with “profound and multiple learning difficulties” who could not navigate the “13 concrete steps” to make their way to essential facilities, such as the canteen, were essentially being segregated from the other children – something Mr McLaughlin stressed was totally against the entire ethos of the school. Those children are being isolated and forced to eat lunch on their own, or to brave the elements by taking the alternative route to the canteen – almost the entire way around the school grounds and through a busy carpark.
He added that the medical room, many classrooms and other parts of the school are suffering from severe damp and that repairs were insufficient.
Speaking to the Sentinel, Mr McLaughlin said: “I was highly encouraged by the Minister’s visit. He was pre-warned that this would be an unashamed attempt to lobby him. He also came under severe pressure from his own staff to leave to attend something in Belfast, but he insisted on staying because he wanted to see for himself the state of the place. He actually commented to me that the place was not fit for purpose.
“One of the issues with the place is the set of 13 concrete steps which are the main route of access to a lot of vital facilities in the school. The children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and those in wheelchairs cannot access those facilities. They cannot be expected to walk across the carpark in the snow – sometimes for months at a time. The children have their lunch brought to them in their classrooms.
“In a very real sense this means that they are being excluded from the rest of the school because the physical state of the place leaves much to be desired. We are promoting inclusion at this school, in line with the policy of the board, indeed I have just been out this morning at an induction to promote inclusion.
“The importance for these children in socialising with the other children cannot be overstated. This is their ‘world’ for a lot of them.
“We have also had to evacuate the nursery simply because of the stench of the place in the wet weather on a number of occasions.”
Mr Mclaughlin added, however, that the hard work of the teachers of Rossmar was going some way towards making up for the problems caused by the inadequate facilities. He said that teachers were doing a “fantastic” job in the circumstances, and pointed to the school’s success at winning a prestigious Northern Ireland healthy living competition ahead of over 12,000 pupils from mainstream schools as a case in point.
Speaking about Education Minister John O’Dowd on his recent visit to inspect the premises, Mr McLaughlin commented: “He was visibly moved by a presentation by some of the children on the difficulties they were being faced with.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Londonderry
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: South