Derry nursery staff forced to fundraise for replacement storage unit
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Anne Burke, principal of Belmont Nursery School on Racecourse Road has had to divide and cram the equipment into the remaining large storage unit on site, nearby Ardnashee College and even her own son’s bedroom after the unit’s roof partially collapsed and it was deemed not fit for purpose. THe second storage shed is also in a bad state, exacerbating the problem.
The school may now have to find £1,400 to have the condemned shed removed and are planning to undertake a major three-mountains in a day fundraising hike to raise the £10,000 needed for a new storage unit after being informed that the EA will not fund it.
Anne Burke said the EA had initially arranged to fix the roof in the new year. but when maintenance called out they quickly discovered that the whole roof was rotten and he store was condemned.
"I assumed that within the space of a few months that the store would be removed and replaced like for like,” she said. “Unfortunately this was not the case, EA sent out correspondence outlining that due to budget cuts they would not be replacing the store. Even with one stored condemned they outlined that in accordance with their handbook we still have sufficient storage which is in keeping with the size of the building. However this does not take into account how the school has evolved and grown over time. It has taken years and money to gather up the bank of resources which we are now very fortunate to have. These resources provide the children within the nursery with fun, enriching learning experiences.”
The principal said most of the resources are now stored in the last remaining store. “This store was already filled to capacity and was also quite damp in places. I was very reluctant to do so but felt that I had no other option. Inevitably the store was not able to accommodate the volume of resources, with some large apparatus that is used less frequently being stored in Ardnashee, whilst approximately a dozen other large boxes were taken home by myself on a trailer to store in my son’s bedroom. I did not mind doing this initially as I was confident that alternative storage would be provided fairly promptly due to the circumstances, however this was not to be the case.”
“The one large storage shed where everything is stored at present is completely packed with resources boxes are piled 5/6 deep, it is impossible to get at the specific resources that you need as the sheer number of obstacles or another equipment in the way makes it extremely difficult and risky to do so. On top of this my young son’s bedroom has a large number of boxes with homework packs etc stored in his bedroom. This in itself is a risk as again they are piled 3/4 deep.”
The children in the nursery are directly suffering, and to change over play/ teaching resources now is a mountainous task, the principal added. “I understand that there is money for nothing at present but my current arrangement for storage is unsatisfactory and unsafe and needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.
“I have been left with no alternative but to fundraise to replace the condemned store.”
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, who has written to the Education Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education over the matter, commented: “It is ludicrous, at a time when teaching staff are facing increased pressures that Belmont Nursery School has been left with no alternative but to fundraise for basic provisions which EA should be facilitating.
“I cannot accept EA’s logic not to replace the storage unit at the school. Their decision is based on outdated recommendations and doesn’t take into account the changing face of the school environment over the last 30 years.
“It’s ridiculous that Principal Burke has been forced to accommodate equipment in her own home and in a vital space within the school, utilised as a space for children with special educational needs. Clearly, this issue is having a negative impact on the school community, kids’ learning as well as presenting a safety risk.
“Sadly, Belmont Nursery School like so many other schools are already running at a budget deficit yet Principal Burke, the staff and parents have made every effort to limit the impact on their pupils.”
A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) said: “Having surveyed an external modular store at Belmont Nursery School, the EA determined that it was beyond economical repair. The roof structure was temporarily propped to avoid the risk of collapse and the entrance doors secured to prevent unauthorised access. The building will be removed in due course.
“Following an assessment of the school’s accommodation, it was determined that the remaining storage facilities continue to exceed those recommended by the Department of Education. The EA is therefore unable to justify the replacement of the external store.
“From the wider funding perspective, the EA is facing an extremely challenging financial situation and given the likelihood of an extremely constrained budget in the next financial year, it is anticipated that programmes of maintenance work will be reduced.”
Anne and some of the other staff plan to climb Binevenagh, Muckish and Errigal all on the one day, Saturday June 3.
"We estimate approximately 9/ 10 hours of walking with 2/ 3 hours in between for car transfers. We are currently in training. This may not seem like a big challenge to many of you but for my colleagues and myself it is a pretty substantial feat as hill walking/climbing is not something that we do regularly.
"We really hope that you can contribute in any way possible to this fundraiser. It would mean a lot to the children and staff of Belmont Nursery School,” she said.
Donations can be left in person at the school or via the GoFundMe page on www.gofundme.com/f/np68y-aint-no-mountain-high-enough-for-belmont