Thursday, 1 February 2007
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me raise this matter on the Adjournment. A report issued by the Department of Education and Science in 2002 called for better all round school accommodation for the children of Lixnaw, County Kerry. It stated that the children need better facilities and opportunities to develop. Since 2002 the population of Lixnaw has increased by 39%. Parish records show that baptisms increased from 30 in 2002 to 49 and 51 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Lixnaw is a dormitory village for Listowel and Tralee. Over the past four years 220 houses have been built in the village, 180 of which are occupied.
The Kerry county development plan shows that Firies and Lixnaw are the two fastest growing rural centres in Kerry. In May 2005 Lixnaw boys' and girls' schools agreed to amalgamate. Their patron, Bishop Murphy, approved the amalgamation. He also said that if the Department pursued a greenfield site, the parish would provide the site, next to the community centre. The location is ideal. This information was communicated to the Department of Education and Science's school planning department on 25 June 2005. Since then, however, nothing has happened.
The Commission on School Accommodation for Kerry North published its report on Friday, 19 January 2007. It concludes that the amalgamation of Lixnaw national schools should be progressed as quickly as possible and that a technical inspection should be arranged by the Department as quickly as possible to further the project. The boys in Lixnaw primary school must learn in unacceptable conditions. The school was built 40 years ago. It has single glazed windows, is impossible to heat in winter and very hot in the summer. There is no canteen and no staff room because that room is used by the learning support teacher. The staff must eat in the sixth class room. Part of the third and fourth class room is used as an office. The main entrance serves several purposes, being used as a cloakroom and by the resource teacher. The play area in the grounds is skimpy and games can be played only on a staggered basis. The hard surface area is very small as a result of which the kids cannot play during the winter months. Two of the present Kerry team came out of this school. The kids are entitled to better facilities because they are very enthusiastic about football and hurling.
A report was published in The Kerryman this week by a local reporter, Donal Nolan, in which he stated that pupils in Lixnaw are being taught in Third World conditions with the resource teacher being forced to teach in the school corridor because of the lack of classroom space. The boys' national school has been waiting close to two years for a site inspection to be carried out and during this time it has received 11 responses from the Department of Education and Science stating that the Department will be in contact when a date has been set for the inspection. However, nothing has been done yet.
I call on the Minister of State to try to encourage the primary schools section to send an inspector to examine both existing buildings to see if it would be possible to extend them to accommodate the schools in question on either site. Alternatively, he or she could view the third site to which I referred. This would help progress the amalgamation which, I understand, has been given high priority in the context of providing funding for schools. I hope the Minister of State has some good news for the people of Lixnaw.
As regards the proposed amalgamation of the existing boys' and girls' national schools in the Lixnaw area of County Kerry, the schools indicated to the Department of Education and Science that they propose to amalgamate to provide for a single co-education national school to serve the area. Before progressing the project further and to ensure that any capital funding allocated to assist in the amalgamation being provided represents optimal use of resources and is appropriate to meet the schools' long-term accommodation needs, it will be necessary to consider the possibility of using any of the existing buildings before pursuing a greenfield site for a new build project.
The Department, upon request, recently received further technical documentation in respect of the school buildings from the schools. The next step is to carry out a technical investigation of the existing buildings to determine their suitability. When this inspection has been completed, the project will be progressed in the context of the school building and modernisation programme.
Did Deputy Deenihan state that the boys' school was built 30 years ago?
I will bring to the attention of the Minister the points he has made. I do not believe it is a question of an inspector visiting the schools. I am assured by the Minister, however, that a technical examination will be carried out to determine the suitability of both schools before a final decision is made.