A little more than ten years after the initiation of a house building programme in Drimnagh, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in January 1944 to take charge of the Infants and Girls National Schools – a Boys National School also opened at this time.
Fr Burke the parish priest of Rialto planned the new schools – to consist of three primary schools grouped together in the centre of the new parish of Drimnagh. There would be a mixed Infants’ and a Girls’ School to be managed by the Sisters of Mercy and a Boys’ School to be managed by the parish.
World War 2 was well under way when this development was taking place. Building materials of all kinds were scarce and expensive, yet the schools were completed ahead of schedule. The Builder Mr Macken considered this a ‘remarkable achievement’.
At the time, the Drimnagh National Schools complex was regarded as one of the biggest and most modern in Europe. The then Minister for Education, Mr Thomas Derrig officially opened the convent schools on the 10 January 1944. Due to the large scale of the project the event was given extensive coverage by the national newspapers. The Evening Herald reported “the space covered by the schools- one of the finest in Europe – extends over 7 acres. In the girls’ school there are 44 classrooms and in all 76 rooms. In the boys school which adjoins the Girls school there are 22 classrooms and 37 rooms altogether”
The combined enrolment of the three schools was over 3,800 pupils. They were considered to be the largest schools in Europe at the time. However, so great were the numbers of children in the area at the time that no child under the age of six could be enrolled.
The Boys’ School opened on the 1 July 1943. Enrolment was 1,094 on the first day with the Secretary of the Department of Education attending the official opening. The school was manages by Fr Traynor PP of the newly constituted parish of Mourne Road, Drimnagh.
In 1956, the Sisters of Mercy extended the National School to provide some secondary schooling for girls, offering post-primary education up to intermediate certificate level. The Boys’ National School also offered this facility. By its very nature, these initiatives could only offer very limited places and subject options. However, soon after the government introduced free post-primary education in 1966, the Sisters of Mercy opened Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School for Girls in 1968 offering education up to Leaving Certificate. It was not possible at this time to offer the same facility for boys – those aspiring to secondary education had to go beyond the parish of Drimnagh.
Enrolments in the three primary schools fell rapidly in the 1960s for demographic reasons. The fall was exacerbated in the Boys’ School by the lack of secondary education, as parents placed their sons in a primary school attached to a secondary school outside Drimnagh. The parish school were re-organized in 1973 when the Girls Secondary school became co-educational, children of both sexes could receive all their primary and secondary education in Drimnagh. In return the Boys’ School vacated the building in Mourne Road and it was taken over by the Secondary School. The Boys’ School relocated to the Girls’/Infants’ School building
Sharing the same building has led to co-operation between the schools on building matters. In mid -1990s half a million pounds was spent on a new roof and a new heating system – much of the original system had been salvaged from Aras an Uachtarain by the school builder when a new system was installed there.
Recent structural improvements: In July/August 2005 the original corroded iron windows were replaced in the three schools under the DES Summer Works scheme at a cost of almost €800,000. The installation of the new windows and exterior doors has greatly enhanced the exterior facade of the schools and has also helped reduce heat loss in the entire building complex. In summer 2006 the schools on the primary school site were approved for funding to upgrade the electrical works under the Summer Works programme and this resulted in the installation of modern electrical system as well as a fire sensor system. In June 2007 the primary schools were granted emergency funding by the DES to undertake major renovation works on the school playground and shelter areas which is used by pupils from the three primary schools. The playground which is one of the largest enclosed play areas in the country had been in a dangerous state for a number of years and these works were essential. Today the schools boast one of the finest play areas for pupils with a new tarmac surface, court areas, playground games markings and a soft surface play area. Dormant Accounts 2007 funding of €54,000 (to the three schools) was also used to provide for some of the play area enhancement features which are enjoyed by 600+ pupils each day during their recreation times. In summer 2009 all classrooms had sinks installed and all internal doors were replaced to modern fire standards. Recently During summer 2010 all the orignal 1940's internal plumbing system, pipework and the large water storage tanks were replaced uner the DES summer works scheme. The schools have also received Department of Education funding for ICT equipment and all school have now modern computers and interactive whiteboard technology in all classrooms as well as broadband access. Therefore Mourne Road primary schools can be proud of the modern school building and teaching facilities and well as dedicated teachers and school staff which ensures that all children attending the schools can have the best education possible.