Schools Building Projects

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 205 No. 16

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Senator Maria Corrigan: Information on Maria Corrigan Zoom on Maria Corrigan I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter, the proposed new special national school for St. Michael’s House in south Dublin. The special national school is located in two buildings, one on Grosvenor Road in Rathgar and the second in a couple of prefab units adjacent to Our Lady’s national school in Ballinteer. Both buildings provide a much needed service which is deeply appreciated by the parents of the children. All of the parents to whom I have spoken have very positive regard for the opportunities the school provides for their children. However, the buildings are old and their condition has deteriorated. There is a genuine desire to bring both sets of pupils together and provide a more integrated, inclusive school. The site for the proposed new school is the site in Ballinteer where the two prefabs are located. The new school would be adjacent to Our Lady’s national school which would give the special national school the advantage of being located alongside a mainstream school. This would provide many opportunities for the pupils of both schools.

The application was initially made to the Department in 2001 but the formal application was received and placed on the priority building list in 2006. Perhaps the Minister of State could give an update on whether the project remains on the priority building list and the estimated timeframe for it to proceed. Obviously, when work starts on the site in Ballinteer, it will be necessary for the schools to be relocated elsewhere during that period.

I thank the Minister of State for the assistance the Department has provided for St. Michael’s House so far. It has agreed to provide funding to rent an alternative purpose built premises in Leopardstown, into which the pupils on Grosvenor Road and in Ballinteer will be able to move shortly, with the Department’s agreement, and in which the school will be able to commence providing the education service. This will provide an opportunity to start building the new [984]school in Ballinteer as the site will be vacated when the schools move into the new premises in Leopardstown. I would appreciate an update from the Minister of State on the matter.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Coughlan, who, unfortunately, cannot be here today. I thank the Senator for raising the matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the House the Government’s strategy for capital investment in education projects and also to outline the current position on St. Michael’s House special school.

As the Senator will be aware, all applications for capital funding are assessed in the planning and building unit of the Department. The assessment process determines the extent and type of need presenting based on the demographics of an area, proposed housing developments, condition of buildings, site capacity and so forth, leading ultimately to an appropriate accommodation solution. As part of this process, a project is assigned a band rating under published prioritisation criteria for large-scale building projects. These criteria were devised following consultation with the education partners.

Projects are selected for inclusion in the school building and modernisation programme on the basis of priority of need. This is reflected in the band rating assigned to a project. In other words, a proposed building project moves through the system commensurate with the band rating assigned to it. There are four band ratings overall, of which band one is the highest and band four the lowest. Band one projects, for example, include the provision of buildings where there is none currently but there is a high demand for pupil places, while a band four project makes provision for desirable but not necessarily urgent or essential facilities.

Each band rating has a number of subcategories which more specifically describe the type of works needed and the urgency attaching to them. The application from St. Michael’s House special school has been assigned a band 1.2 rating. This band rating reflects the nature of the project, providing accommodation for children with special educational needs. As such, the project was prioritised for progression in 2010.

The Senator will be aware that the project was one of the school building projects announced by the then Minister for Education and Science in February to begin the design process and proceed to appoint a design team for a new school in the last quarter of the year. In this regard, officials from the Department met representatives of the school authority at the proposed site for the new school recently. The site is considered generally suitable for the proposed development. The representatives were informed that the next step in the process would be the appointment of a design team and that the Department would be in contact with it in this context in due course.

The Senator will appreciate that the extent of the demand on the Department’s capital budget is enormous providing, as it does, accommodation for new communities and modernising existing schools. However, huge inroads have been made into addressing these needs. I again thank the Senator for raising the matter and assure her the Tánaiste is committed to meeting the needs of St. Michael’s House special school.

Senator Maria Corrigan: Information on Maria Corrigan Zoom on Maria Corrigan I thank the Minister of State for his positive response. I welcome the fact that the next step in the process will be the appointment of a design team. The Minister of State did not say exactly when that will happen, but he did say it will take place before the end of the year.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 November 2010.

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