Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

6:00 pm

Kathleen O'Meara (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I wish to raise the situation faced by St. Sheelan's College of Further Education in Templemore, where I recently attended a meeting of Oireachtas Members from the constituency with the principal, Mr. Dan Condron.

St. Sheelan's is a college of further education, formerly a secondary school, in Templemore and in June 2000 the Department of Education and Science initiated a reorganisation of educational services in the area, deciding that all second level education would take place in Our Lady's Secondary School and that St. Sheelan's College would be developed as a centre for further education.

The college has taken the commitment to provide a centre for further education seriously but that commitment is not being matched by the Department. The communications between the VEC in north Tipperary and the Department on St. Sheelan's College read like something from Kafka. The college would contact the planning unit about an issue and the planning unit would inform it that it was a matter for the building unit. When it then contacted the building unit, it would tell the college it was a matter for the planning unit. The further education section would then state that it could not do anything until it had a schedule of accommodation. It is an extraordinary situation where the college is being blocked by a bureaucratic mess in the Department, with a complete lack of co-ordination between its sections.

By any standard, it is a disgrace that a public facility such as St. Sheelan's College would be treated with such disregard. If this does not improve, I will take the matter further. The Department has treated St. Sheelan's in a disgraceful matter and has acted in a way that is far less than what the Department is publicly committed to. This falls far short of what any Department should be doing.

Now there is a proposal for a refurbishment scheme for a 75 pupil college but at present there are more than 200 pupils on campus. It is a highly successful college of further education and has taken on courses in complementary, beauty and alternative therapies that are so popular there are waiting lists for entry. These are high-quality courses and some of my acquaintances who do them speak highly of them.

It is clear, therefore, that St. Sheelan's College meets the mandate given to it by the Department and is fulfilling the needs of PLC students and the student population in north Tipperary. Despite this, the Department is not providing any support and the college's development has been blocked for several years due to a cat and mouse game, with the Department unwilling to indicate the funding position for a college with more than 200 students. A building programme and schedule are needed, as is a co-ordinated, accountable response from the Department on this matter. I look forward to the Minister of State's reply. If I am not satisfied that progress will be made in the near future, I will continue to pursue the matter.

Photo of Tony KilleenTony Killeen (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Clare, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I thank Senator O'Meara for raising this matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the Seanad, on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, the strategy of her Department for capital investment in education projects and the position regarding the development of education provision in St. Sheelan's College, Templemore.

Modernising facilities in our 3,200 primary and 750 post-primary schools is not an easy task given the legacy of decades of underinvestment in this area and the need to respond to emerging needs in areas of rapid population growth. Nonetheless, since taking office the Government has shown a sincere determination to improve the condition of our school buildings and ensure the appropriate facilities are in place to enable the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum. As evidence of this commitment, 1,300 building and modernisation projects will be active in our primary and post-primary schools during 2006 and more than €490 million is being spent on these projects throughout the country.

St. Sheelan's College is a post-leaving certificate provider, which has not been a mainstream provider since 2003. Its withdrawal from mainstream provision followed an agreement with Our Lady's secondary school, Templemore, that it would become the single mainstream post-primary provider for the Templemore centre and PLC and adult education provision would be centred in St. Sheelan's College. The college has a current enrolment of 195 PLC pupils, a figure which has increased steadily over recent years.

Following an application for capital funding from Tipperary North Riding Vocational Educational Committee towards a refurbishment project at the school, the project was allowed to progress to the appointment of a design team. The Senator will be aware that the Minister for Education and Science made a number of announcements earlier this year on the school building programme for 2006. The Minister will make further announcements in this regard over the coming months and the building project for St. Sheelan's will be considered in this regard. The Senator will be pleased to learn that St. Sheelan's recently received funding of €64,000 under the 2005 summer works scheme for partial roof replacement.

Again, I thank Senator O'Meara for raising this matter which allows me to outline the position of the Department of Education and Science on the school building and modernisation programme.

Kathleen O'Meara (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

While I thank the Minister of State for his reply, it is far from satisfactory and I will continue to pursue the matter.