Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Schools Building Projects
I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, for taking this Adjournment matter in respect of an issue concerning the Portrane-Donabate peninsula in north County Dublin, an area which has grown tremendously in recent years. As with the Minister of State's own constituency of Dublin West, it has huge educational requirements, both at primary and secondary level. Currently between 400 and 500 children attend secondary schools as far away as Balbriggan, Skerries, Malahide, Portmarnock and Swords. I am told children from the Donabate and Portrane areas attend some 13 secondary schools. Only two weeks ago I was amazed at the number of children on the platform at the railway station in Donabate waiting for trains either to Balbriggan or town.
There is no doubt that a secondary school will come to Donabate. However, to end the uncertainty for parents an announcement must be made that a school will be in place by September 2008. By that date it is estimated some 700 pupils will otherwise need to leave the area. The area is the subject of a local area action plan which will result in many thousands more homes.
I know it is a something with which the Minister of State has had to deal in his own constituency of Dublin West. I ask that every effort be made to ensure that Donabate is included in the next announcement so that the anxiety currently being experienced by parents and children will be allayed and children can be assured of a place in September 2008.
Brian 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 thank the Senator for raising this matter on the Adjournment. The Senator has considerable experience of developing school projects in Fingal and is, indeed, a former member of the local authority. He is well aware of the urgent needs of the community in Fingal for further educational provision. I am pleased to provide the up-to-date position on post-primary infrastructure for the Donabate area.
As the Senator is aware and has outlined, the Government is providing a new, 1,000 pupil post-primary school to cater for the needs of Portrane and Donabate. The school will be a community college under the aegis of the vocational education committee. I am acutely aware of the needs of the Donabate-Portrane area and the Minister is determined to progress this project as quickly as possible.
The site for the new school has been made available to the Department by Fingal County Council under the terms of a cross-Government agreement finalised in July of this year. This arrangement, which will provide school infrastructure in tandem with shared community facilities, will have a broader application throughout the functional area of Fingal County Council where it is expected up to 20 new schools will be required over the coming years.
A lot of work has been done by officials of the Department of Education and Science and Fingal County Council in recent months to agree the terms of an overall framework agreement which will now enable the site in Donabate to transfer to the Department and to make arrangements for the sharing of significant extra facilities, including sports facilities and a library, between the school and the local community. The innovative arrangements being put in place will ensure enhanced facilities for the school and maximum benefit for the community.
Arrangements are now in train for the transfer of the designated site from Fingal County Council to the Department, which is key to moving the project forward. Once the legal process for the transfer of the site has been concluded, the project can move to the next stage.
The project is of the highest priority for the Department, as evidenced by the assignment to it of a priority band 1 rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large-scale building projects. I assure the Seanad that the Minister shares the anxieties that the new school be built as soon as possible.