Thursday, 24 April 2008
Schools Building Projects
I am sure the Minister is more than aware of the serious requirement in south Galway for the provision of a new second level facility. A very active and committed group of parents and staff in Seamount College has spent almost two years gathering an irrefutable raft of evidence which certainly makes a very strong case for such a facility. Her officials and staff have agreed that is very much the case.
Only a few months ago, the Minister kindly gave a commitment to provide such a facility in the environs of Kinvara in recognition that it was the right place to locate it and of the strong and proud tradition of second level education there. With that commitment, the Sisters of Mercy have agreed to once again begin an intake of students into Seamount College and we hope it will continue.
The commitment is that the school will be operational by 2012. I would appreciate it if the Minister would bring us up to date. What progress is being made in regard to the acquisition of a site for the school in Kinvara?
I thank Senator Cannon for raising the issue of the need for a second level school in Kinvara which has been ongoing for the past year.
In light of increases in population in the south Galway area and the decision of the Sisters of Mercy to close Seamount College, Kinvara, on a phased basis, the Department determined that a new post-primary school would be required in the south Galway area. Accordingly, the commission on school accommodation was requested to conduct a survey of school accommodation in the area to determine the location of the proposed post-primary school and to identify other locations where additional school places may be required over the next five to ten years.
The survey, which facilitates proactive planning, is based on a transparent process of consultation with interested parties from the area. A total of 25 submissions were received from trustees, boards of management, principals, teachers, staff and parent groups as well as others with an interest in educational provision in south Galway. The survey also involved analysis of key factors such as demography and population, house building, Galway County Council local area plans, enrolment trends at both primary and post-primary levels and visits by members of the technical group to schools.
The commission published its report in January 2008. The report's recommendation for Kinvara state:
[That] a co-educational post primary school for [around] 800 students should be provided in the northern environs of Kinvara. This school should cater for the Kinvara catchment area including traditional areas of North Clare, Ballinderreen and Kilcolgan, and should also cater for students from Clarinbridge and Oranmore for whom it may not be possible to make provision at St. Calasanctius Secondary School, Oranmore. Steps should be taken by the Department of Education and Science to identify and acquire a site. This school will be required for the 2012-13 school year, to coincide with the closure of Seamount College. The detailed implementation of this recommendation will invariably involve the amendment of perhaps several catchment areas in the South Galway area. The Department of Education and Science will need to address this issue.
Details of the survey and recommendations may be viewed on the Department of Education and Science website www.education.ie. The survey also deals with the accommodation needs in the areas of Aranmore-Clarinbridge, Claregalway, Athenry and Gort-Ardrahan.
When a new school has been approved a number of procedures and processes must be undertaken and these can take some time to complete. The main stages are the identification and acquisition of a suitable site, design of the building, application for and granting of planning permission, invitation to seek tenders and construction.
The property management section of the Office of Public Works, OPW, which acts on behalf of the Department in regard to site acquisitions generally is being requested to source a suitable site for the school in question.
The progression of all large-scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase is considered on an ongoing basis in the context of the national development plan and the Department's multi-annual school building and modernisation programme. The project in Kinvara will be obviously considered in that context. There is a commitment to ensure that, following agreement with the Sisters of Mercy and the closure of Seamount College, Kinvara, the new school will be in place for the 2012-13 school year.
I assure Senator Cannon that my Department is committed to providing high quality accommodation for the Kinvara area at the earliest possible date.