Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Schools Building Projects
Question 11: To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the provision of a permanent 16 class school building for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in view of the fact that the school has been in substandard temporary accommodation since 1994 and the school is forced to turn away more than 200 applicants for junior infants annually, the school is located in a mixed urban environment with high sustainable demand for multi denominational education; his views on the matter and on the transparency of school building waiting lists in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14769/11]
As the Deputy is aware, the existing school site has certain constraints in terms of size, access and the fact that there is a protected structure and associated conservation issues. My Department considered the option of constructing a new school but it has not been possible to identify a suitable site. Accordingly, my Department is now exploring the possibility of developing the school in a cost effective manner on the present site.
The Deputy will also be aware that there is a significant demand for multi-denominational education in the area in question and the school referred to is the only school providing this type of education in that area. In this regard, I have launched a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector with its key objective to identify mechanisms to enable the patronage of the country's primary schools to reflect the choices required by parents.
All applications for capital funding are prioritised by my Department in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria, which were formulated following consultation with the education partners. Full details of the current status of each project can be viewed on my Department's website www.education.ie.
I have talked to the parents council about this, particularly following the "Prime Time" programme which highlighted the fact that 444 junior infants were being educated in prefabs there at this time. It caused the parents to reflect that their children are being educated there since 1994. Numerous officials from the Department of Education and Science have viewed the site. The parents essentially want to know how long it will take for this process to go through and they want there to be transparency in terms of the list of building projects. Even though their project has been on the school buildings list and has been given the go-ahead, they have not been able to find out exactly where their project is ranked on that list or when the project will proceed. Ensuring there is transparency is a goal of this Government.
There are many school sites on which there are prefabs but I have not seen many sites on which there are two-storey prefabs or where there is one prefab on top of another. As the Deputy will be aware, the problem is that the site is constricted and the school is effectively occupying the site. There is a difficulty in terms of how to build on the school site and at the same time run the school. There was talk in the past, of which the Deputy is probably aware, of an alternative site being located further down the South Circular Road but, to the best of my knowledge, it is no longer available. The Deputy can take it from my point of view that the demand for the school clearly exists. There is excess demand because there is a demand for even another school, with which the Deputy will be familiar. We are examining ways in which we can overcome the problem. It is a unique building problem and if we can find an alternative site, we will. I would love to be able to give the Deputy, as I said to the principal of the school and to others, a much clearer and definite response in terms of time, but I am simply not in a position to do so and I do not want to mislead the Deputy.
Is it possible for the Department to work more closely with the school authority in this respect? It said that an engineer has visited the site and it is aware there is a protected site at the front of the school but it does not consider that is a problem. All the barriers from that point of view need to be removed. It is a question of meeting and working out how and when that can be done. Is it possible for the Department to liaise with the parents council and the board of management of the school?