Tuesday, 1 April 2003
Adjournment Matters. - Schools Building Projects.
I wish to raise the situation in Bennekerry national school. This school expected to be included in this year's round of schools building projects and there was dismay to find out it is not. That dismay was compounded when it discovered it is not even being considered for temporary accommodation although, since that discovery, the Department of Education and Science has climbed down to an extent and is issuing approval for some emergency accommodation.
This school will appoint a ninth classroom assistant on 1 September. It is already using two cloakrooms for resource teachers, which is a disgrace. When it was refused the school extension it was hoping for, it was also refused a temporary prefab structure.
When the Minister announced building projects in January, the school management was told by an official from the Department that the school should use its PE hall for a classroom. That is a disgraceful answer. Sport is either a part of the curriculum or it is not. A school PE hall is not a suitable structure for use as a classroom. This hall is also used for dancing, drama and related activities.
The least the school and the 30 children who will join it in September deserve is a prefab so they can carry on with their education. Two cloakrooms and a medical room are being used for other purposes. I appeal to the Minister to explain to the school when it will get the emergency temporary accommodation. It is now only five months to September and the principal of the school needs to know when a decision will be made.
I telephoned the Department of Education and Science to inquire about the situation but it was a waste of a call. The person who answered could not tell me when a decision would be made or who would make it. When I asked how many other schools in County Carlow would be affected by the decision, she still could not tell me. She was the official in charge of schools in Carlow. If that is the standard of official in the Department, we are doomed.
I apologise for having to drag the Minister into the House to hear this matter but I had no choice. I have been assured for four weeks that a decision is due and I have been fobbed off every week. I hope the Minister of State will provide specific details in his reply.
I am glad the Senator has given me the opportunity to outline the Department of Education and Science's current position regarding the allocation of funding for school building projects.
The 2003 capital programme has now been published and full details in relation to individual projects are available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. The programme is designed to give the maximum amount of information to managers, boards of management, principals, parents and students. The criteria used for selecting projects have also been published for the first time.
This year's building programme amounts to €342.9 million, four times the amount allocated in 1997. The 2003 programme will deliver over 140 large-scale projects at primary and post-primary level. In addition, over 400 schools will benefit from the capital programme and all primary schools benefit directly from the devolved grants scheme for minor works.
The Department of Education and Science has already informed the board of management of Bennekerry national school that the budgetary allocation for 2004 and subsequent years will determine the rate of progress on projects, including applications in hand for funding, that could not be included in this year's programme. The management authorities at individual schools should continue to use funds from their devolved grant to deal with any urgent health and safety matters.
I thank the Senator for giving the opportunity of outlining the current position to the House.