Thursday, 18 October 2018
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh (Atógáil) - Priority Questions (Resumed)
Schools Building Projects Status
What is the status of an application by St. Cremin's national school in Multifarnham for additional accommodation? I hope the Minister comes bearing good news after receiving such good news himself earlier in the week.
I thank the Deputy for raising the question. I confirm that the school to which the Deputy referred was approved for funding in 2017 to provide a mainstream classroom, two resource rooms and a WC for assisted users. The project is devolved to the school authority for delivery. This means that the school itself engages a design team to bring the project through the design stages and on to construction.
The school authority recently submitted its stage 2b report to my Department for approval. This is the detailed design stage of the architectural planning process. The contents would be expected to be in line with the accommodation approved.
However, in this instance, the accommodation outlined in the report exceeds that originally approved by my Department. This has a consequential impact on funding. I understand that the school is offering to make some of its own funding available to offset the additional cost.
The stage 2b report will be fully examined by my Department. Given that the accommodation approved does not coincide with that outlined in the report, this will also now require a review of the schools long-term accommodation needs. This will be done as quickly as possible and a decision will issue directly to the school authority as soon as it is available.
The Minister is spot on. In 2017 the Department gave approval which was welcome. However, part of the planning conditions required an upgrade to the sewage-treatment facility. Obviously in order to meet the planning conditions the school had to go back and seek additional works. It also needed to address a leaking flat roof for which it got approval. The Department advised the school to put that in as part of the overall tender.
The school sought some additional space, an extra special educational room, an increase in the library space and the secretarial office. However, the board of management and the parents' council are prepared to bear those costs. In reality there are no additional cost implications on the Department. The school is hoping this can be accelerated. It is ready to go to tender. As the Minister knows, going on eTenders takes a month, followed by the wait to get the contractor in place. The school needs to be in a position to commence the works early next year so that when the school enrolment increases in the next school year, it will be able to facilitate that increase. I ask the Minister to accelerate the process.
The really important piece of work is the reassessment of the school's long-term accommodation needs. It will be required to ascertain the merit or otherwise of the school's proposal. As the Deputy will be aware, over recent years decisions on the location of schools have been based on demographic analysis. The 42 new schools announced earlier this year point to increasing pressures and population demand. It is important that the decision is made promptly. I will certainly speak to my officials to ensure this happens. A decision will issue directly to the school as soon as this process has been completed.
I reiterate the point that we are talking about an increase because of a planning condition the school must meet. I think the Minister will agree with that. It is seeking additional accommodation to increase its library, secretarial office and one special educational room, a total of 27 m2. We are not talking about a huge extension or anything like that. The board of management and the parents' council will absorb that additional cost. The school has an enrolment of 193 pupils which will increase to 205. There is no question over the need here. All the school now needs is for the Department to follow through on its 2017 commitment and enable the school to go to tender. I guarantee that the school will deliver the project within the budget allocated and it will be ready for the increased enrolment in September 2019. I would appreciate if the Minister could use his good offices to ensure this is accelerated.