Seanad debates

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

8:00 pm

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

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, for coming to the House to discuss this important matter. I see him looking at the clock so I will not delay him further. The vocational school in Nenagh, which is a substantial school, has not been refurbished or upgraded since it was built in the early 1970s. We know how long ago that was. The building is not up to the standard that is needed if the school is to provide the services required of it. To give a practical example of the problems being faced, there are not enough sockets in some of the rooms. It is almost impossible for all the school's computers to work at the same time because the building cannot cope with the level of power that is needed to make that happen. Such a level of demand was not envisaged in the 1970s.

The school has applied to the Department for funding for a refurbishment programme and has been told it is at phase 1. The estimated cost of the refurbishment programme was €3.5 million a few years ago, but it is not possible to estimate now what it will cost. The school authorities are frustrated because the project has been moved on and off the list of projects to be pursued. It was on the building programme list at phase 1 last January. It is as if it is stuck at phase 1. As someone who is familiar with the school, I assure the Minister of State that it is in need of complete refurbishment. It is catering for 275 second level students, as well as 100 adults who are doing full-time adult education courses, including courses in child care, an issue that is dear to the Minister of State's heart.

It took 35 years to get the funds to put a fence around the school. I have raised this matter on the Adjournment because the school authorities are frustrated about the project being stuck at phase 1. I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to respond to my concerns. The teachers, the board of management and the families who are sending their children to the school are anxious about the future. The school has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the community of Nenagh and the entire catchment area. The principal and the rest of the staff are very committed to the future of the school. I would like the Minister of State to outline the Department's plans to pursue the building programme for the vocational school in Nenagh.

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)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I thank Senator O'Meara for affording me an opportunity to outline to the House the Department of Education and Science's position on the proposed building project at the vocational school in Nenagh, County Tipperary. The modernisation of facilities in our 3,200 primary and 750 post-primary schools is not an easy task, given the legacy of decades of under-investment in this area and the need to respond to emerging needs in areas of rapid population growth. Since the Government came into office, it has shown a sincere determination to improve the condition of our school buildings and to ensure that appropriate facilities are in place to enable the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum. Evidence of this commitment is the fact that approximately 1,300 building and modernisation projects are active in our primary and post-primary schools this year. Over €490 million is being spent on primary and post-primary projects throughout the country.

Nenagh vocational school was listed, among 124 schools that were announced in April 2005, as a project to be furthered through the architectural planning process. The brief for this project is the refurbishment of current accommodation and an extension to provide appropriate accommodation for a long-term projected enrolment of 400 pupils. Officials of the Department of Education and Science visited the school in November 2005 and consequently revised the schedules of accommodation which were issued to the VEC authorities in a letter dated 21 November 2005. In the letter, the Department instructed the VEC authorities to request their design team to amend the stage 1 application, site suitability and design options, to reflect the impact of the revised schedules on the design options as presented in the original stage 1 application dated January 2001.

The Department of Education and Science has subsequently received the requested information from the VEC authorities and on completion of a review of the submission, officials of the Department will be in contact with the school authorities with regard to furthering their project. Progression of projects to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme, 2006-10.

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

When will the review of the submission be completed?

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)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The reply only discloses that the request has been received by the Department. However, I assume that as it is being dealt with at an official level, this will be done within a reasonable time.

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

I thank the Minister of State.