Wednesday, 11 June 2003
Adjournment Matters. - School Closures.
John Paul Phelan (Fine Gael)
I raised this issue on the Adjournment a month ago. It concerns St. Brigid's secondary school, Goresbridge, County Kilkenny. Approximately three months ago, the school's board of management received confirmation that the Department of Education and Science intends to close the school, on a phased basis, during the next two years.
I raised this matter on the Adjournment in May to ascertain what is the position of the Department and the plan to close the school was confirmed in the reply I received. Since then, local residents, students, past pupils and parents have organised an action group which has submitted a quite detailed survey of the school's catchment area. This indicated that the possibility exists for significant increases in the numbers of students attending St. Brigid's in the future and that the school could remain viable.
The problem that has existed for a number of years – it was made apparent at a recent public meeting in Goresbridge – is that very little, if any, capital investment was put into improving the physical structure of the school in the past 30 to 40 years. From a health and safety point of view, the building is not in great condition. That results from a continuous effort by the Department of Education and Science to have the school closed at some point.
I acknowledge that the number of students attending the school at present – approximately 130 or 140 – is small. A number of different bus routes, which take students from the school's immediate catchment area to Kilkenny, Bagenalstown and Carlow, are in operation and these detract from the school's prospects.
In view of the fact that the action group has put a lot of work into its report and that there is strong public feeling in the Goresbridge area that the school should survive, I would like to be informed of the Department's current view on the matter. I have tried to find obtain information in this regard from the Department in recent weeks but I have not been successful. I have made many phone calls, but an answer has not been forthcoming. People in Goresbridge and those who work at and attend St. Brigid's are concerned that, once the leaving certificate examinations conclude, the issue will be forgotten. It appears that no information will be forthcoming until September and that the school will be closed in the next two years. I will be interested to hear the Minister of State's response.