Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

School Facilities

4:55 pm

Photo of Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I was contacted by the line Minister, who was unavailable. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy O’Donovan, for being here, because the question is on refurbishment and retrofitting. The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, OPW, has good experience in the fine work that the OPW carries out on many of our buildings across the country.

I want to ask about the retrofitting of our schools across the country. Many of us visit and talk in schools. Schools we visit can have varying, different standards of buildings. I visited a school recently in Rathnew, namely, St. Coen’s, which was newly built and is absolutely fantastic. There are high energy-efficiency measures within the building - everything from the taps to the water conservation measures and more. It has water attenuation tanks outside that catch rainwater from the roof and then regenerate back into the building. The roof was wired for solar panels but they did not have them. They asked me to look into that, so I would be delighted to go back to them now to tell them that we are putting free solar panels on schools. That is a bit of good news going back.

However, other schools we visit – the Minister of State knows ones I am talking about – where you go in and there are the badly-fitted windows, the central heating is pumped up to 90 and the heat is all going out through the windows. The heating is blasting out, but yet the children are cold in the classrooms.

I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Education on it, and the response came back about the energy retrofit pathfinder programme, which is a programme to identify and assess schools for retrofitting. I just do not know how a school actually applies for it, how it is assessed or how it gets onto that pathfinder programme. We know the tremendous work that the teachers do in the classroom and the school principals are absolutely up to their eyes, so I do not know if they would have time to sit down and look into how to apply for a retrofit for their schools. It would be good if we could make it easier for those schools to apply for those energy retrofits to get the assessments carried out to see what the best return for them is, for example, new windows, thermostatic controls, lighting controls or something to help them with those huge energy bills, especially where they are dependent on oil heating. It is expensive, wasteful and bad for our environment.

I do not know if the Minister of State has any information on that. However, I would like to be able to go to the schools and tell them about the pathfinder programme that was introduced and is a collaboration between the Department of Education and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. How do school apply for that programme?


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