Offaly secondary school demands action over serious overcrowding issues

Leaks, overcrowding, prefabs part of the daily grind for a school that demands action

Lynda Kiernan


Lynda Kiernan


schools laois offaly portarlington

Crowded corridors deemed a safety issue at Coláiste Íosagáin

Students are sitting on floors to eat, missing out on subject choices, at risk of school intruders, and suffering stress from the lack of space, and all because the school says the Department of Education is taking too long to build a new school in Offaly.

Parents and staff of Coláiste Íosagáin secondary school in Portarlington have revealed how crammed and under pressure their 1,003 teens are, with basic prefabs not filling the gap of specialist classrooms. Exit doors must stay open for students to access prefabs, reducing security at the school.

“We do not have the facilities we deserve and need,” Principal Seamus Bennett said.

Parents Council member Colm Dunne fears how everyone could safely escape if there was a fire.

“It's nuts. Trying to get from one class to another is crazy,” he said.

Deputy Principal Brendan McGlynn says the roof leaks everywhere. “I spend time mopping water before the kids come in. The biggest thing affecting wellbeing is the building and lack of space.”

The school has 1,003 students and nearly 100 staff, in an extended building for half that number. They rely on 16 prefabs as well as the 43 classrooms.

The older part of the building dates back to the 1980's and has narrow corridors where students and teachers squeeze by at breaks and between classes. With no canteen big enough to hold them all, students must sit on the floor or go outside to eat.

Principal Seamus Bennett said, “The design is with them (the Department of Education) since last May but they have not come back to us with any answers. 2021 is too late for us. We do not have the facilities we deserve and need. If we got the go ahead now they should be starting next summer.”