Seanad debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Adjournment Matters

Schools Building Programme.

9:00 pm

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, to the House and thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this item on the Adjournment. With his permission, I wish to share my time with Senator Kitt.

Holy Rosary College in Mountbellew is a rapidly expanding school with more than 500 students. Since 1968, this school has been seeking an extension, expansion and a sports hall. The new school, which was to have included a physical education hall, was approved in 1968. Unfortunately, the new school was completed in 1970 without the PE hall. The school has consistently endeavoured to obtain it since 1968. Yesterday, the Minister for Education and Science announced €5,000 for PE equipment for every school in the country, yet this school cannot avail of that. This has happened before. On numerous occasions the Department provided computers, yet there was no space or suitable facilities to utilise them.

The Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science often emphasise the importance of physical education and other recreational activities for students to avoid obesity and other difficulties that may arise through inactivity. The Holy Rosary school needs a major extension to accommodate additional classrooms and a PE hall. After waiting all these years, the school should be granted these facilities. Field games and indoor sports have always been important to the school's ethos. The Minister and the Department should sanction approval for the classrooms, refurbishment and the PE hall. These much needed additional facilities, which were included in the original school plan, should now be provided after such a long delay.

The proposal has reached stage 2, with a submission to the Department's planning and building unit. It is hoped that it can move on to stage 3 soon and that the school authorities should not have to wait any longer for the expansion to be approved. Two generations have passed through the school since 1968 and no other school in the country has had such a record of neglect in the face of simple demands for a much needed facility. Various Ministers have repeatedly stressed the importance of physical education in the school curriculum, yet Holy Rosary College in Mountbellew has been waiting for a PE facility for almost 40 years. There is nothing left for the Minister to say other than that it is time the facility went through.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Ulick Burke for allowing me to share his time. I also thank the Minister of State for attending the House. This is an important project for a local college of mine. My eldest son was a student at Holy Rosary, which has been trying so hard to get a sports hall. The college even sought assistance from the Department to rent a premises, but that request was turned down. The college authorities have been seeking improvements for almost 40 years, as Senator Ulick Burke said.

On 8 February, agreement was reached to finalise stage 2 and we now want to move to stage 3. In his reply, I hope the Minister of State will say that we are moving on to stage 3 and that further progress can be made. This is a fairly big extension — I understand it could be over 2,000 sq. metres. It is not just a sports hall but will also include a music room, a religion room, guidance suite and a general purpose dining room. This major extension is urgently needed for classrooms, a sports hall and other purposes.

Like many rural schools, Holy Rosary College places great emphasis on sport. Yesterday, the Department of Education and Science announced the provision of €4,000 for every secondary school, while last year a sum of €2,000 was announced for physical education facilities for primary schools. The logical conclusion would be to provide the sports hall at Holy Rosary, Mountbellew. I hope the Minister of State's reply will signal that progress is forthcoming in that regard.

Holy Rosary College has a large enrolment which is heading for 500. Its long-term projected enrolment is for 550 pupils. A stand-alone physical education hall is vital and I am sure the Minister of State will confirm that it is included in the brief for the project. I imagine there will soon be a meeting to discuss stage 3. Perhaps the Minister of State will indicate when that meeting is to take place, so that all outstanding issues can be addressed between departmental officials, school staff and the board of management.

I thank the Minister of State for his interest in this project. I hope we can get modern buildings and facilities for this developing, rural school, which has a projected enrolment of 550 pupils.

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Ulick Burke for raising this matter on the Adjournment, and also thank Senator Kitt for his contribution. This matter gives me an opportunity to outline to the House the position of the Department of Education and Science regarding Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew, County Galway. The building project for Holy Rosary College was one of a number announced for schools by the Department in 2005 to progress to architectural planning. This project has recently been approved to progress to stage 3, which is the developed sketch scheme of architectural planning. The brief for the project is to provide adequate accommodation for a long-term projected enrolment of 550 pupils. A stand-alone PE hall is also included in the brief for this project.

A meeting was convened on 8 February 2007 with officials from the Department, the board of management and the design team in order to evaluate the stage 2 submission. At the meeting the project was approved to progress to stage three of architectural planning. When the stage 3 submission is received in the Department, a meeting will be convened which will involve board of management representatives and the design team presenting the submission outlining key aspects of same. Any issues or commentary by the Department will be addressed at the meeting. The minutes of the meeting will be issued to the school afterwards as a formal record of the meeting. It is envisaged that unless there are very exceptional circumstances involved, the meeting will be sufficient to authorise the project to progress to the next stage of architectural planning subject, if necessary, to formal receipt of confirmation by the school from the design team that the issues raised by the Department have been addressed.

In the case of all large capital projects currently on hand within the school buildings section, progression of the project to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the multi-annual school building and modernisation programme. I assure Senators that the Department of Education and Science is committed to providing suitable, high-quality accommodation for Holy Rosary College at the earliest possible date. I thank Senator Ulick Burke and Senator Kitt for raising this matter in the House.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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Given the current climate, when the Minister of State says "the earliest date", is he indicating it will be before the end of May?

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I cannot say that at the moment. I am pleased that approval was given to progress to stage 3, however, and we will advance it as quickly as possible.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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Does the Minister of State know if stage 3 has yet been submitted to the Department?

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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It has not yet been submitted, but when it is received it will be considered by the Department as soon as possible.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate the Minister of State's reply.