Seanad debates

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Thalidomide Compensation Scheme

Gaelscoileanna.

7:00 pm

Photo of Maria CorriganMaria Corrigan (Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate the opportunity to raise this important matter and I thank the Minister for coming to the Chamber. I raise the issue of the provision of a gaelcholáiste for south Dublin. There are six local gaelscoileanna in the area which have been tremendously successful. This has afforded the opportunity for children to be educated through primary level. There is no second level gaelcholáiste in the immediate area but there is one in an adjacent area. In recent years it has just about managed to provide placements for children who wished to access second level education through Irish. However, in the last couple of years, due to the increasing number of local gaelscoileanna it has not been in a position to do that for everybody. A committed and dedicated group of parents and gaelscoileanna in the area have come together to address this problem. The VEC has a building that is no longer used on Sydenham Road, Dundrum, which would be an excellent location for a gaelcholáiste. I understand from the campaign group that the VEC is prepared to be the patron of the gaelcholáiste and provide the premises, although it would require work which would need to be funded. The gaelcholáiste would meet the needs of the six local gaelscoileanna.

Studies completed in recent years have shown that there is now sufficient capacity to fill a two-stream second level school in the area. There is a premises available and if funding was provided, the school could open in September. Given the time of year and the urgency of the matter, I would appreciate a positive response from the Minister of State.

Photo of Áine BradyÁine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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I am taking this Adjournment Matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe. I thank the Senator for raising it, as it affords me an opportunity to outline to the Seanad the process being used to ensure there will be adequate accommodation in schools at primary and post-primary level in all parts of the country.

The forward planning section of the Department of Education and Science has carried out a study of the country to identify the areas in which, owing to demographic changes, there may be a requirement for significant additional school provision at both primary and post-primary levels in the coming years. The study was conducted using data from the Central Statistics Office, the General Register Office and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, in addition to recent school enrolment data. After consideration of these factors, decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area.

The forward planning section utilises the latest in geographical information systems, GIS, technology to assist in planning school requirements for the future. The GIS contains information on all schools in the country at both primary and post-primary levels. A range of demographic information is linked spatially to the relevant schools and this allows for the mapping of various demographic scenarios at local level. Typically, the demographic information is obtained from the CSO, the General Register Office, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, An Post's GeoDirectory and information supplied by local authorities through development plans. Growth projection figures are applied to the existing population with a view to assessing future requirements at primary and post-primary level.

The forward planning section of the Department is in the process of carrying out detailed analysis of more than 40 locations of highest population growth in order to determine school accommodation requirements up to and including the school year 2014-15. When the required reports have been completed for these initial selected areas, the section will continue to work on preparing reports on a priority basis for the remainder of the country. Overall post-primary accommodation requirements in the south Dublin area, including the case for the provision of a new Irish language post-primary school, will be considered in this regard.

I thank the Senator once again for raising the matter.

Photo of Maria CorriganMaria Corrigan (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State, whom I understand is here on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science. However, the reply could have been about any proposal or school in the country. A specific proposal regarding the premises on Sydenham Road has been forwarded to the Department of Education and Science. If the offer is not taken up within the next 12 months, the premises will no longer be available because the VEC will be obliged to offer it to others. It has been empty for the last 18 months, but it cannot remain empty in the hope this proposal will be acted upon.

Children are in sixth class in local gaelscoileanna. They have done wonderfully in their education through Irish. It would be a missed opportunity for them and us if they were not allowed to continue their education through the language. This area of south Dublin has expanded rapidly in recent years. The children concerned want to complete their second level education through Irish, from which they will benefit, as will we as a community. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State passed on these sentiments and asked whether there was any specific information available on the Sydenham Road proposal.

Photo of Áine BradyÁine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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I have noted the two points the Senator made about the six local gaelscoileanna and the vacant VEC building which I will pass on to the Minister.

Photo of Maria CorriganMaria Corrigan (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State.