Seanad debates

Thursday, 12 December 2002

Adjournment Matters. - Colleges of Education.


Michael Brennan (Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Minister to bring forward proposals and funding for the development plan for Mary Immaculate College of Education, Limerick. Everybody acknowledges the tremendous contribution the college has made in training primary school teachers over the past 100 years. It has increased its student numbers from 600 in 1992 to 2,300 at present. This has been done at the request of the Department of Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority in order to tackle the shortage of primary school teachers. However, the increase has been implemented without a corresponding growth in facilities at the college and the extra students are using substandard facilities.

The last custom-built building was erected in Mary Immaculate College in 1979. A massive plan for the college's development, as part of the national development plan, has been submitted to the Department. I ask the Minister to ensure that the physical education teaching building proceed on the agreed schedule, with building commencing in spring 2003, that the infrastructural works required for the building development programme be progressed as scheduled, that advance design work on the three building phase of the college proceed as planned and that such work be brought to tender stage in readiness for immediate activation when further funding becomes available to carry out construction work.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I am glad the Senator has given me the opportunity to outline the position regarding capital development at Mary Immaculate College of Education, Limerick.

The Minister for Education and Science acknowledges the contribution and commitment of Mary Immaculate College of Education to teacher education in this country. Its response to the demand for additional primary teaching places is commendable with numbers increasing from approximately 850 in 1998-99 to over 1,400 at present. The Department acknowledges the need for infrastructural development at the college.

A masterplan, which set out a framework for future development at Mary Immaculate College of Education, was completed in 2001. The Department of Education and Science concurred with the basic thrust of the masterplan and a design team was appointed for a first phase of development at the college and the initiation of architectural design, which is outlined in the Department of Education and Science design team procedures. These procedures comprise nine stages, covering architectural planning, preparation of tender documentation, tender report/contract approval, construction and final account stages.

A design team has been appointed for the first phase of the development, which comprises phase 1A, 1B and 1C and the infrastructure works associated with each of these developments. Phase 1A consists of a multi-purpose teaching hall which will accommodate a number of activities including physical education teaching programmes, student examinations, conferral ceremonies and social and recreational sporting activities. The layout of the existing site is such that it is necessary to demolish the existing unsatisfactory sports building in the college to allow for development to take place.

Phase 1A is the multi-purpose teaching hall, which is an essential facility for the college. Phase 1B is the new auditorium and phase 1C is the teaching space, which includes a link to the colleges existing buildings. Infrastructure works, which include the provision of a new campus entrance on to Courtbrack Avenue, new internal paths and roadways and associated parking areas together with new drainage and services are also included in the first phase of development.

The design team is currently working on stages 4 and 5, which involve the detailed design and preparation of tender documentation on phase 1A. An outline sketch scheme for infrastructure works is currently under consideration in the Department of Education and Science. An outline sketch scheme is also in preparation for phases 1B and 1C.

Funding has been provided to the college over the last number of years to provide temporary accommodation for the college to assist with their accommodation needs in the short term. The capital allocation in 2003 is based on legally enforceable contractual commitments approved by the Department by close of business on Thursday, 14 November 2002. Officials from the Department of Education and Science will commence, in the new year, a series of meetings with the Higher Education Authority to review the entire set of capital requirements in the third level sector with a view to re-establishing priorities and re-phasing projects in the context of future funding expectation.

I again thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to outline the current position to the House.