Dáil debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Adjournment Debate

Schools Building Projects.

11:00 am

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North, Sinn Fein)
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I have had the benefit of hearing the Minister's answer to the matter raised by Deputy Deenihan on O'Brennan national school. That answer does not offer great hope for the school.

The school authorities indicated in or around 2000 that the school was in need of refurbishment and that they required a new school. They wanted this project to be progressed because the roof was leaking, the heating system was inadequate, the classrooms were small, the school grounds were unsafe and the drains became blocked on a frequent basis.

A necessary site was required and the trustees purchased a site of one acre adjacent to the existing school. They commenced the planning process. During the period that progress on this project has been delayed, the number of pupils enrolled in the school has increased. If the project is to progress, a new planning application will have to be submitted to meet the requirements of the school and its pupils.

There are currently five prefabs on the school grounds and it is disturbing that one of them costs €1,200 a month to rent, which is equivalent to the monthly repayments that would be incurred by a person procuring a mortgage to build a house that would involve a cost of more than €200,000. This situation has been ongoing for a number of years and will continue. It makes no sense to incur such a debt when a fine site is available to build a school. As Deputy Deenihan said, both Deputy McEllistrim and I, as well as other people who will be contesting the election, were in the school on Monday and I understand the Minister previously visited it.

The school's administration secretary works in a room measuring about 30 sq. ft. It is not possible to open the door to enter the room because a filing cabinet is in the way. A resource classroom is also being used as a lunch room for the teachers and special needs assistants. The yard surface is uneven and highly dangerous and I assume the children are constantly falling and are a danger to themselves and to others. The playing pitch has been taken up by prefabs in order to meet the requirements of the pupil numbers.

The teachers' and parents' council is concerned that the school is far down the list. They hope the school will be categorised as a priority by the Minister and the Department so that the problems can be addressed speedily.

The Minister's reply is very bland and does not tell us anything. When I go back to meet the parents' council, the principal and the teachers they will be disappointed as they will not see themselves being any further on than in 2000.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Rather than repeating my reply to Deputy Deenihan, I acknowledge that Deputy Ferris is correct and that Deputy McEllistrim also expressed his concerns about this school. Had the school progressed its building project a few years ago, it would now be too small because the population of the area has grown and the numbers in the school have increased. It was therefore essential to examine the projected enrolments closely so that when the project is completed it will be suitable for the number of children in the school and for the extra teachers.

The Deputy will be aware of the allocation of learning support and resource teachers of which the school has 1.5, meaning at least two teachers are involved. The reduction in class size last year and next year and the commitment for the next three years could also impact on the number of teachers in the school, as could the population growth. Even though the conditions might be difficult at present, it may be to the school's benefit that a more accurate assessment has been made of its numbers and the staffing. The school numbers have been assessed and the technical team is now examining the school. This is evidence of a commitment by the Department with reference to the school building and modernisation programme.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.35 p.m. until10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 March 2007.