Schools Building Programme.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 188 No. 18

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Senator Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross My item concerns the need for the Minister for Education and Science to advance the planning process for Howth Road national school to development stage. This is a bad case of a delay in the development of a school on the north side of Dublin which has been inexplicably caught up in bureaucracy and difficulties. It has caused immense frustration to the pupils, parents, board of management, teachers and everybody else there. A simple move in the Department might hasten the school’s development.

This is an inclusive Presbyterian school and it seeks rapid development into one which can compete and appear as physically competent and modern as its colleagues. The school has received only one injection of €50,000 from the Depart[1410]ment of Education and Science since 1980. It has been on the same premises, with the same buildings since the 1970s. In 2002 the board of management, in conjunction with the parents and the Presbyterian Association, decided to invest in the fabric of the school as there was a crying need for this and the State was not providing the money. This produced classroom and office space, general redecoration and a special needs room. The full cost was €80,000 of which the Department provided €50,000, with the school and parents raising the balance, to build a prefab which is not the ideal accommodation for schoolchildren.

The school has been designated as needing a new building. It has reached stage 3 in this process but is frustrated because the Department appears to have put it on hold. It had expected to have reached stage 5 a long time ago which would mean it could go ahead as soon as possible with State planning approval and funding. The school feels that it has been on hold for ten years, although the Department assured it that the process would be shorter. It is particularly important not to delay schools of this type for so long. A pupil might be educated in a prefab for most of his or her school life. Pupils should have a modern, well-equipped school for part, if not all, of their education. I do not see any sense of urgency about this school in the Department.

In March 2007 an architect visited the school and passed the plans but in the sort of hiccup that is typical of the public service, the architect left his position. A new architect was sent out to the school and the process started again. This architect halted the past plans, then gave them the go-ahead last November but it seemed unnecessary to many of those involved to have two architects approve the work.

Stage 4 is planning, Stage 5 is tendering. I plead with the Minister of State to assure me that the school has not been relegated to the end of the list and to convey to the Minister the urgency of this case and the need to expedite it immediately.

Deputy Tony Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen On behalf of the Minister for Education and Science I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity of outlining to the House the Department’s position regarding the proposed provision of additional accommodation and refurbishment works for Howth Road mixed national school.

Under the lifetime of the national development plan almost €4.5 billion will be invested in schools. 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.

[1411]The Howth Road national school has an enrolment of 94 pupils and is staffed by a principal, three mainstream teachers and a special education teacher. The proposed project will consist of the construction of an additional classroom and ancillary accommodation and the conversion of two existing classrooms into one.

The Department has recently approved the stage 3 submission for this project. The Senator will appreciate the progression of all large scale building projects, from initial design stage through to construction phase, is considered on an on-going basis. I will, however, as the Senator requested, pass on the additional information to the Minister and ask her to ensure that the building section takes it into account.

The Minister will announce further school building projects to progress as part of her [1412]Department’s school building programme. The Minister and her Department are committed to providing suitable high quality accommodation for Howth Road mixed national school at the earliest possible date.

Senator Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross I am disappointed with the Minister of State’s reply because he gives no date. Will he please ask the Minister for Education and Science to assure me that the Department is doing everything it can to hasten the construction on this site, not doing anything to block it, and that this school has not been relegated to a lower place on the waiting list?

Deputy Tony Killeen: Information on Tony Killeen Zoom on Tony Killeen I undertake to pass that message to the Minister.

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