Thursday, 29 November 2018
School Accommodation Provision
I thank the Minister of State for taking this matter. I refer to an Educate Together national school in Dún Laoghaire and the need for permanent accommodation for Gaelscoil Cholmcille on Oscar Traynor Road.
Representations have been made by Councillor Deirdre Kingston of the Labour Party in Dún Laoghaire asking for progress in the acquisition of a permanent site for a new Educate Together national school in Dún Laoghaire. It is currently located in temporary accommodation which is not fit for purpose. It is cramped for students and not a very positive learning environment. There are no indoor facilities or spaces in which to engage in exercise or movement, with the result that in bad weather children must remain in the classroom for the entire school day.Furthermore, the temporary accommodation is located beside a special school for children on the autism spectrum. We will need to consider the impact more children starting next year and more noise will have on their learning experience. The school is located on a small residential road and traffic is a problem now. Next year there will be bigger numbers. The area immediately around the school is also very unsuitable and unsafe when walking with young children. There are missing pathways, no safe crossings and narrow roads, on which traffic reverses.
Councillor Kingston understands the Department has been reviewing a site for about a year. The question we are asking is where is this site and when does the Minister expect construction to begin. Furthermore, the Department recently bought a site in Blackrock. For what will it be used? Will it be used for the new Dún Laoghaire school? It is important that the Minister prioritise this site and move to tender stage. The demand for school places in Dún Laoghaire is huge and every year parents are worried about what school their child will be able to get into. We need to do all we can to meet demand and ensure every child will be assured of a school place in his or her community.
I appreciate that the Minister of State is here to discuss the Educate Together school in Dún Laoghaire and look forward to hearing his response, but I wish to refer to Gaelscoil Cholmcille on Oscar Traynor Road. I was in the school yesterday for the celebration of Bliain na Gaeilge. The children's celebration of music and song was incredible. Wonderful work is ongoing in the school which has been waiting for a permanent building for 22 years. While I appreciate the Minister of State is here to talk about the Educate Together school in Dún Laoghaire, this issue is still ongoing and I would appreciate hearing his comments on it. Perhaps he might ask the Minister what can be done about it. However, we will concentrate this morning on the Educate Together school in Dún Laoghaire.
Whatever about the previous issue, I thank the Cathaoirleach for his compliments.
I am taking this Commencement matter on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh. I thank the Senator for raising it. I am happy to clarify the position on the development of permanent accommodation for Dún Laoghaire Educate Together national school.
Following a national demographic exercise, it was determined that the opening of a new primary school in September 2017 was required to ensure there would be sufficient primary school places to serve the Dún Laoghaire school planning area. Following a patronage appointment process, Educate Together was appointed as patron of the new school. The school is located in interim accommodation on the grounds of the Red Door School in Monkstown Grove in Monkstown. Dún Laoghaire Educate Together national school has two class groups and there is sufficient accommodation for the school for the 2018-19 school year. Additional accommodation will be required from September 2019 onwards. Departmental officials will work to put the necessary arrangements in place to ensure the school will continue to have suitable interim accommodation, pending delivery of a permanent school building.
The Department is committed to providing a permanent accommodation solution. In that regard, a project to deliver a 16-classroom school building for Dún Laoghaire Educate Together national school has been included the Department’s six-year capital programme. The acquisition of a site is required to facilitate the delivery of the project. The Senator will appreciate that the acquisition of school sites in highly developed urban areas where land is extremely scarce presents particular challenges for the Department. Not surprisingly, that has proved to be the case in Dún Laoghaire. While a number of potential site options were identified with the assistance of officials in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, to date, all have proved to be either unsuitable or unavailable for acquisition. Nonetheless, departmental officials continue to work towards the provision of a suitable site for Dún Laoghaire Educate Together national school and have been engaging with relevant parties, with a view to putting an appropriate solution in place. At this juncture it is not possible to give a timeframe as the Department is still working to identify an optimum solution for the school. Negotiations with a property owner or other external exigencies may influence the timeframe for delivery of the site. However, the process is being progressed as quickly as possible, with a view to securing a site at the earliest possible date. Once a site for the school has been secured, the project to deliver permanent accommodation can be progressed to the architectural planning process. On behalf of the Minister, I assure the Senator that the provision of a permanent school building in a suitable location is a priority for the Department and that officials are working to advance the project as quickly as possible.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I appreciate that officials are working hard to secure the site and engaged with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to facilitate its acquisition. The Minister of State might be in a position to clarify whether the site acquired in Blackrock is earmarked for Dún Laoghaire Educate Together national school. I also ask him to pass on to the Minister my comments on Gaelscoil Cholmcille on Oscar Traynor Road. I appreciate that these issues are difficult. I also know that departmental officials are doing their absolute best, but the school does not want to engage in a campaign that will last five, ten or 15 years. I appreciate that officials are working hard, but the parents are hoping the goodwill behind the establishment of the school will not turn sour when people do not see movement. I ask the Minister of State to facilitate a discussion between the Minister and the board of management of Gaelscoil Cholmcille.