Wednesday, 1 June 2005
I compliment the Minister on the great work she is doing in the education sector and on the programme of development taking place. My constituency has been the beneficiary of her largesse in that area. I visited Lisacul national school two months ago at the request of the principal, Tomás Ó Moráin, and the chairman of the board, Fr. John O'Rourke. I met the staff, pupils and the parents' representative. I saw that this was a school with a serious overcrowding problem and poor conditions. It is greatly in need of a refurbishment programme and an extension.
My greatest concern was that it seemed that nothing had happened since March 2001. The discussion on the development of the school has stood still since that time. Obviously, the board of management, teachers and parents are very concerned by this. I put this motion before the House so we can move the process forward with a view to accommodating the interests of the school and board of management.
Lisacul national school is a three-teacher school with 68 pupils as at September 2004. The school board of management submitted various plans to the Department but the plans were returned because, to some extent, the Department decided on a different course of action to the board of management. That has been the position for some time.
While the Chief Whip, Deputy Kitt, will reply on the motion, I ask the Minister to provide clarity on this matter and to move the process forward with a view to ensuring that this school is definitely included in the 2006 programme. For that to happen, certain other developments must take place before the end of this year, namely, agreed accommodation and planning permission must be in place. I hope, following this debate, that I can report to the locality of Lisacul national school that the Minister's office will move the process forward, which I have no doubt it will.
I will not delay the House as other Members have matters to discuss. However, this issue has been brought to my attention publicly. The community in the locality of the school are very supportive of this development and have requested me, as their Deputy, to highlight their case and to ask for the direct intervention of the Minister to move the process forward.
I thank the Deputy for raising the urgent matter of Lisacul national school. It affords me the opportunity on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science to outline to the House the strategy of the Department for capital investment in education projects and also to outline the position regarding the application received in the Department for additional accommodation at Lisacul national school, Castlerea, County Roscommon.
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 sincere determination to improve the condition of our school buildings and to ensure that the appropriate facilities are in place to enable the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum.
We have progressively increased funding for the schools modernisation programme in recent years to achieve our goal, with an aggregate total of almost €2 billion allocated for this purpose since 1998, the largest investment programme in the history of the State. Since the beginning of the year the Department of Education and Science has made a number of announcements relating to the schools building and modernisation programme. This year alone, €270 million will be allocated to primary schools and €223 million to post-primary schools for building works. This represents an increase of 14% on the 2004 allocation.
The programmes supported will include the following: 141 major building projects already on site and a further 28 due to commence in the coming weeks; 122 major school building projects countrywide which will prepare tenders and move to construction during 2005; 192 primary schools which have been invited to take part in the small and rural schools initiative and the devolved scheme for providing additional accommodation; up to 120 schools which have been given approval to rent temporary premises pending delivery of a permanent solution to their long-term accommodation needs; 43 schools which have been authorised to start architectural planning of their major projects; 590 schools which were recently given approval to complete essential small scale projects under the summer works scheme; and 124 schools approved to progress through the architectural planning process with immediate effect, ranging from new school building projects to extensions and refurbishment projects, allowing for the continuous roll-out of projects under the schools building and modernisation programme.
The new schools building and modernisation programme 2005-09 will be underpinned not just by a significant increase in overall funding but also by major improvements in the administration of the funding. Devolving more funding to local level through the summer works scheme and the small and rural schools initiative will allow schools to move ahead much more quickly with smaller projects while also delivering better value for money.
I greatly appreciate the work Deputy Finneran has done on behalf of Lisacul national school. The proposed building project to convert the existing classroom accommodation to a general purposes area with ancillary accommodation and to add a new three-classroom extension will be considered in the context of the schools building and modernisation programme 2005-09. I will be glad to relate Deputy Finneran's concerns to the Minister. I thank the Deputy for affording me this opportunity to outline the position on this matter.