Thursday, 19 January 2023
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Schools Building Projects
Jennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats) | Oireachtas source
I thank the Minister of State for attending. I appreciate this is not his area, so I hope he has been well briefed. It is a pity the Minister for Education is not here to take this issue because it is important for many students and parents in north Wicklow.
Greystones Community College is a secondary school in Greystones. For many years, there was great pressure and demand for school places in our locality and we were delighted when the school was sanctioned, given it met a significant need in the area. Since its sanctioning, it has been in temporary accommodation at three different sites, including a tennis club, where the principal's office was situated in a bathroom. It has also been accommodated at a rugby club and it is now shared between there and a GAA club. The students are being taught in old prefabricated buildings rather than a dedicated facility or building and they have no PE facilities or sports hall. They have a reduced curriculum because the school is not able to provide all the subjects to the students.
Land in the area has been allocated and planning permission provided for the new school. It is costing enormous sums to provide this temporary accommodation. The Department is paying hundreds of thousands of euro while the full build is being completed, and land is sitting idle.
I wanted to raise this issue with the Minister for Education because in June of last year, I was told the school was on track to be completed for September 2024, which was welcome news. Since then, however, I received notification that the Minister for Health, who is sitting in the Chamber, was provided with an update indicating that the construction of the school would be completed in mid-2025, which would have a considerable impact on the school given its demand is continuing to grow. It is a very popular school and it will not have the facilities to provide enough places for students who need them. It will need to put a cap in place.
In November last, I wrote to the Minister for Education's office to try to find out what was happening with regard to the school because parents, students and the school community were very worried about the issue, although I did not receive a response. I again wrote earlier this year and have not received a response to that either. I hope the Minister of State has been given a comprehensive prepared response from the Department of Education on this issue.
My understanding is the Department told the parent body that lot 6, which includes Greystones Community College, was to go to tender in 2022-23 but that, in fact, it did not go to tender in 2022. Did the tender issue in 2022, and if not, why not? Will it happen in 2023? The initial response I received from the Minister in the middle of last year suggested construction would begin in early 2023, but that deadline has passed. There are significant concerns about this and I hope the Minister of State will have a comprehensive response for me.