Additional accommodation approved for St Mogue’s College

The Department of Education has approved significant additional accommodation for St Mogue’s College in Bawnboy.

A total of seven classrooms, including specialist rooms, will be provided in new modular accommodation.

A Cavan-Monaghan Education and Training Board spokesperson informed the Celt: “The accommodation for St Mogue’s was sanctioned to fulfil an immediate need for key specialist classrooms. A total of seven classrooms, including a SEN base, toilets and ancillary spaces will be provided in the new modular accommodation. The new SEN base will facilitate current and future enrolment of SEN students.”

CMETB will now seek to appoint a design team to manage delivery of the project. It is a major boost for the west county school which, along with St Bricin’s in Belturbet, had been fighting off the threat of amalgamation.

Back in January of this year St Bricin’s also received good news when the department similarly sanctioned the provision of eight classrooms, including a SEN base and toilets, through modular buildings. CMETB has already appointed a design team in respect of that project.

The additional accommodation for St Mogue’s was welcomed last week by local Fianna Fáil TD, Brendan Smith. He explained how he had assisted in arranging a meeting with the Minister for Education, Norma Foley with local public representatives and groups campaigning for the retention of St Mogue’s and St Bricin’s.

At that meeting the accommodation needs of both schools were “outlined clearly” and it was highlighted to the minister how an application was also approved some time ago in respect of additional accommodation at St Bricin’s.

“I very much appreciate the help of Minister Foley in securing this substantial accommodation for both schools,” said Deputy Smith.

There are, according to a spokesperson for the ETB, “currently no further updates” regarding the proposed amalgamation of St Mogue’s and St Bricin’s. The ETB had initially proposed to have a new school built in Ballyconnell by September 2023.

Back in February 2022, then chief executive John Kearney told a meeting of the ETB that he would meet with the chairpersons of the boards of management of St Bricin’s and St Mogue’s, as well as the schools’ principals. The meeting, which was described as part of a new “collaborative approach” focused on identifying the needs of pupils in the west of the county.

Mr Kearney subsequently left the role of ETB chief after been appointed head of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

It is understood Mr Kearney did meet with a small group of representatives from St Mogue’s before leaving the ETB role, while St Bricin’s school principal David McCague is now set to leave the Belturbet post to takeover at St Macartan’s College in Monaghan in August.

Dr Fiona McGrath is currently serving as acting CE at the ETB.

At the last meeting of the ETB, Cllr Brendan Fay (IND) challenged the executive about €1.7 million allocated to St Bricin’s six years ago to fund extension works that never went ahead.

“Where is that money now?” he asked, stating that there is only “one staff toilet” at the school and no canteen. He added that the staffroom was surrendered by teachers to make way for an additional classroom.

“Can we write to the minister about it?” he asked

Bernie Power, buildings officer at the ETB, responded, saying the “bulk of that funding” would be used in the paying for the modular accommodation project now.

Specific issues like staff toilets she stated were “separate issues”, which could be funded under the Emergency Works Programme if there is a “genuine need” to be addressed.