Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

7:00 pm

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)

I thank the Senator for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the House the Government's strategy for capital investment in education projects and the current position on the building projects for Coosan national school, Athlone Community College and Ballymahon Community College. Modernising facilities in approximately 3,200 primary and 730 post primary schools is not an easy task given the legacy of decades of under-investment in this area as well as the need to respond to emerging needs in areas of rapid population growth. Nonetheless, the Government has shown a consistent determination to improve the condition of our school buildings and to ensure appropriate facilities are in place to enable the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum.

The Government has dramatically increased investment in the school building programme from just more than €90 million in 1997 to almost €600 million this year. Under the lifetime of the national development plan almost €4.5 billion will be invested in schools. This is an unprecedented level of capital investment which reflects the Government's commitment to continue its programme of sustained investment in primary and post primary schools. As the Senator may be aware, a developing area unit was set up recently in the Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

The developing areas unit of the Department has identified Athlone as an area of rapid development. A decision has been already taken to replace and expand the existing Athlone Community College. The new building, when complete, will cater for 1,000 pupils. The proposal for Coosan national school is to construct a new 16-classroom generic repeat design facility on the existing school site. Both projects have advanced to the point where the next step is the appointment of a design team. The status of all schools in Athlone, including Athlone Community College and Coosan national school, is being assessed as part of an overall delivery plan, which is currently being formulated within the developing areas unit. The policy and modernisation unit of the Department has appointed the design team to the Ballymahon Community College project and a stage 2, that is an initial sketch scheme, has been approved by the Department subject to certain technical requirements being adhered to.

While I am not in a position to give a timetable for the progression of Coosan national school, Athlone Community College or Ballymahon Community College, I reiterate that the need for new school buildings for the schools in question is acknowledged by the Department. As with all large capital projects currently on hand within the developing areas unit and policy and modernisation unit, their progression will be considered in the context of the multi-annual school building and modernisation programme.

I thank the Senator once again for affording me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position on Coosan national school, Athlone Community College and Ballymahon Community College.


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