Schools Building Projects.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 188 No. 14

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Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me raise the important matter of the provision of a new school in Ballintemple in Blackrock in Cork. I am heartened by the Minister of State’s response to Senator Ellis, because for the first time a Minister of State has come into the House and deviated from a prepared script on an [1073]Adjournment matter and given an honest appraisal of where matters stand. I commend him on that and hope he does the same in response to my matter.

Five years ago, two new portacabins were located on a site adjacent to the school in the grounds of the SMA Fathers. Has the situation improved since then? There has been massive growth in the area and Ballintemple national school has outlived its present campus. The site has become too small, the school is on a split campus and we now need a bigger site and school. It is important that we provide for both the present and the future. We have an opportunity now to plan for a meaningful education programme for our young people, existing students, parents and teachers of this school.

The Ballintemple and Blackrock areas are ones of rapid urban growth where there is competition for school places. I met a woman recently in the area who walks with her three children to Turner’s Cross national school every morning, a fair trek. I understand the Ballintemple school board of management has spoken with senior planners in the Department, but there has been no tangible news. I do not want to receive a response that only marks time, because a marking-time response will bring no progress on this development.

We need a commencement date for this necessary new school. We need a school that will cater for three times the current intake because of existing demands. The school is currently an eight-teacher school but the new school planned will have capacity for 12. The SMA fathers have offered a free site of 1.5 acres to the Department and finance will be available from the sale of the current school. There is no issue with regard to the land which is self-financed. The SMA fathers and the board of management are ready to move. I ask for some progress on the provision of this important facility in this fast-growing area of Cork city.

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I apologise that the Minister for Education and Science is not in a position to attend the House tonight. I thank the Senator for raising the matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to this House the Government’s strategy for capital investment in education projects and to outline the position regarding the provision of a new school at Ballintemple, in Cork city.

Modernising facilities in our 3,200 primary and 750 post primary schools is not an easy task given the legacy of decades of under-investment in this area, as well as the need to respond to emerging needs in areas of rapid population growth. The Government has shown a focused determination to improve the condition of our school buildings and to ensure the appropriate facilities are in [1074]place to enable the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum.

During the lifetime of the national development plan almost €4.5 billion will be invested in schools. Approximately €600 million will be spent this year on school buildings. This is an unprecedented level of capital investment which reflects the commitment of the Government to continue its programme of sustained investment in primary and post primary schools. This investment will facilitate the provision of new schools and extensions in developing areas and the improvement of existing schools through the provision of replacement schools, extensions or large-scale refurbishments over the next number of years.

Turning to the specific matter in hand, Ballintemple national school is a co-educational primary school with an enrolment of 211 pupils as of September 2007. Enrolments at the school have increased by 14% in the past five years. The school has a current staffing of one principal, eight mainstream class teachers and two permanent learning support-resource teachers.

The school has submitted an application to the Department of Education and Science for capital funding towards the provision of a new school and the long-term staffing figure on which accommodation needs will be based has been determined and notified to the school authority. It has been agreed that appropriate accommodation should be provided to cater for a long-term projected staffing of one principal and 12 mainstream assistants, with appropriate ancillary accommodation.

The school authorities were advised in September 2007 that the proposed site for the new school building was suitable for the construction of a new 12 classroom school and that they could proceed with its acquisition from the SMA fathers. The progression of all large-scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase is considered on an ongoing basis in the context of the national development plan and the Department’s multi-annual school building and modernisation programme. The project at Ballintemple will be considered in that context.

I thank the Senator once again for raising this matter and allowing me to outline the progress being made under the school building and modernisation programme and the position regarding the provision of a new school building at Ballintemple, Cork City. I will relate Senator Buttimer’s strong views about the progression of the project to the Minister for Education and Science.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the Minister of State for his reply and urge him to revert to the Minister for Education and Science on this matter. We have had enough procrastination and [1075]need to see tangible progress. The site is free and will cost the State nothing. I hope we will see tangible movement soon.

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