Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Schools Building Projects
The Minister of State is having an easy evening because I have no intention of speaking for four minutes when discussing this issue which perhaps somewhat parochial. A school in a village called Kealkill, approximately six miles from Bantry, has experienced many difficulties with prefabricated buildings falling down, etc. The local community, school principal and board of management have shown great community spirit by raising money to purchase additional land for a playground. The problem the school now has is that it is using a prefabricated structure as a classroom. While I do not usually raise matters of a parochial nature on the Adjournment, I have strong feelings about this remote, rural school. I ask that the Department, in lieu of renting a prefabricated structure for a long period, consider having a small extension carried out to facilitate the classroom in question.
I am replying on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn. I thank the Senator for raising the matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the House the Government's strategy for capital investment in schools building projects and the position regarding Kealkill national school in Bantry, County Cork.
The current staffing level at Kealkill national school is a principal and two mainstream teachers. The school, which also has the services of one learning support-resource teacher, is located in a permanent school building with additional temporary accommodation consisting of one mainstream classroom and one resource room. Its enrolment was 76 pupils at September 2010 as against 64 enrolments in 2006. It is not experiencing the rapid increase in enrolments which has occurred in other schools around the county.
The Department has allocated grants under the summer works scheme to the school to assist it in maintaining the existing school building. In 2005, a grant was approved for ceiling repairs, and in 2008 it received a grant for fencing and in 2010 a further grant was approved for roofing repairs. The Department is not in receipt of any current application for capital funding from the school. Should there be a need for additional accommodation at the school, it is open to the school authorities to submit an application form which can be found on the Department's website.
As the Senator will be aware, all applications for capital funding are assessed in the planning and building unit of the Department. The assessment process determines the extent and type of need presenting based in particular on the demographics of an area, condition of school buildings, site capacity and so forth, leading to an appropriate accommodation solution. The progression of all such assessed large-scale building projects then falls for consideration in the context of the Department's multiannual school building and modernisation programme, having regard to competing demands and available capital funding.
I thank the Senator again for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position regarding Kealkill national school in Bantry, County Cork.