Monday, May 20, 2024


THE principal of Kilkeel High School has confirmed that the start of its new term has been delayed by a week due to unfinished refurbishment work. Speaking to the Mourne Observer yesterday (Tuesday), Victor Coert said that work to refurbish existing toilets and build new toilet blocks – for which the Education Authority a (EA) received planning permission in October 2021 – was still ongoing, and had necessitated the seven-day postponement to pupils returning to class. The delay in progressing the works has been branded “unacceptable” by South Down DUP MLA Diane Forsythe, who has accused the EA of “bad planning”.

Mr Coert said that the works – necessary because the school has “grown significantly” in recent years – had been due to get under way in early July, but did not begin until the first week of August. He explained that they had “pushed very hard” to get the refurbishment works completed by last week, but it had not proved possible, and highlighted that staff members had only been able to return to the premises on Tuesday due to there being no working on-site staff toilets prior to that. “It is our hope that tomorrow at 5pm – we have that deadline with the contractors – that the refurbished toilets are done,” said the principal. “The reason the toilets are being refurbished is because the school has grown and we need more toilets. “The additional toilet blocks being built will only be finished by mid-October. “It is my hope that after Halloween there will be a lot more toilets available for our pupils. “But the difficulty currently is that by last Friday we had 15 less toilets than we had in June.” Mr Coert highlighted that induction days for various year groups are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, and that all pupils will return on Monday, a week later than had originally been planned. “The bottom line is that we were not ready to start when we were supposed to,” he stated. “Our staff were ready, but the difficulty is that by the time staff and pupils were due to be on-site nothing was ready. “This school is growing. “The new toilets are needed because the school is booming, and that’s very positive for the school and it is also very positive for the community.”

In a statement, Ms Forsythe said that she had engaged with senior EA officials on the issue, and that the completion of the work had been escalated to “urgent”. “The school leadership team is committed to getting the children back into school as soon as is safe to do so,” the MLA continued. “They are doing their best, and I support their efforts here as local MLA and as a parent of a pupil at Kilkeel High School.   “They are confident the already communicated schedule of return dates will be met with Year 8 in on Thursday. “I called in, alongside Mournes councillors Glyn Hanna and Henry Reilly, to support them every step of the way to get the school finished and opened as soon as possible.”

Ms Forsythe concluded that the situation was “unacceptable” and that she would be taking the issue further. “Once again, we have schools closed all summer and works commencing in August, affecting the operation of the school,” she said. “It is bad planning and is not good enough for our schools, their staff and our children.” When contacted for comment, an EA spokesperson said: “The Education Authority is undertaking two projects to improve the toilets at Kilkeel High School. “Initial scheduled works at the school have been subject to some minor delays. “Senior officials are working closely with the school and the works are planned to complete on Wednesday 6 September, which will facilitate pupil return on Thursday 7 September.”

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