Thursday, 1 February 2007
Schools Building Projects.
I thank the Minister of State for waiting here to hear us so late this evening. A public meeting was held in St. Catherine's school in Aughrim in my parish. There has been a campaign to get a new school in the area for some time. I support the parents and teachers in their campaign to get a new school. The old school is outdated owing to the increased numbers and the change to modern teaching. The number of pupils will increase from 70 to 130 next year. As the existing school was built in 1948 and cannot be extended further, a new school is needed.
The school was previously earmarked for demolition under the original plan for the N6. However, the route of the N6 was changed and the school's demolition was no longer included in the plans. The school was offered €300,000 in 2005 under the devolved scheme to build a further three rooms. Under examination with the parents and Department officials it was decided that this would not meet the forecasted needs and the plan was dropped. The school has five mainstream teachers, two resource teachers and a full-time support teacher. Some of these teachers are working out of a tiny cloakroom and a hallway, and the question of safety owing to overcrowding arises.
We received a letter from the Department stating that the school planning section had completed its reassessment of the application and considered that in the long term St. Catherine's national school would require a principal and eight mainstream class teachers and ancillary staff. The project is being progressed on this basis. However, we need the Minister to ensure that the technical team visit the school as quickly as possible to decide whether to build a new school or a huge extension. I believe a new school is the only way forward. However, it is the technical team that must make the decision. Aughrim is a developing area and the population will further increase.
As the Deputy has said, under the permanent accommodation scheme 2005 the school authority was offered funding of €300,000. It was agreed that this would not proceed and the school would be delivered by the traditional method, in line with the project's priority band rating.
Officials in the Department of Education and Science have recently completed their reassessment of projected enrolments and have determined that the long-term projected staffing for St. Catherine's national school in Aughrim will be for a principal and eight mainstream teachers and this has been notified to the school authorities. The project will be progressed in the context of the school building and modernisation programme. I will inform the Minister for Education and Science of the views expressed by the Deputy about the very poor condition of the school. We will ask the Minister to try to have the project team visit the school as quickly as possible with a view to starting the architectural planning work.