Written answers

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Department of Education and Science

School Accommodation

12:00 pm

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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Question 54: To ask the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 522 of 23 of June 2009, if the review of his Department's policies and procedures for the provision of temporary classroom accommodation has been completed; if he has received a report regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44146/09]

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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The review of policies and procedures for the provision of temporary classroom accommodation is well underway.

One change in policy that has been implemented is to grant aid the purchase (rather than rental) of temporary accommodation where the need for such accommodation is likely to exist for more than 3 years. Furthermore, since July 2008, it is my policy to offer schools being approved for grant aid for temporary accommodation the option to use their capital grant aid to build a permanent classroom(s) rather than purchase a prefab. As at the end of October 2009, 210 schools have been approved funding for the purchase of prefabricated classroom(s) with the option of building a permanent room(s). 61 of the approved schools have indicated to my Department that they intend purchasing prefabs and 60 intend to use the grant-aid to build a permanent room. The remaining schools have not yet indicated their preference.

These policies will reduce the usage of temporary accommodation and, particularly, the incidence of long term rental of prefabs and have already contributed to emerging savings of approximately €14m on annual expenditure on rental of temporary accommodation in 2009 as compared to 2008.

In addition, my Department has engaged a specialist firm to develop new procedures and systems for the provision of temporary accommodation with a view to achieving best value for money. Work is well underway and the firm of specialists is working closely with officials in the Planning and Building Unit of my Department. The review incorporates the development of standard specifications for temporary accommodation, the development of new contractual terms to incorporate buy-out and relocation options to cater for individual local circumstances and appropriately protect the interests of the Department and school authorities. My Department has received a draft of a new contract for the provision of temporary accommodation which is currently under consideration. The work on the development of standard specifications is also well advanced.

Another strand of the review is negotiations with prefab suppliers to buy out existing rental contracts or reductions in annual rent, as appropriate. An initial group of 46 schools with rented prefabricated accommodation has been identified for priority negotiations with suppliers to buy out existing rental contracts.

I expect that I will be in a position to approve a number of these purchases of prefabricated accommodation in the coming weeks.

The focus of this review is the development and adoption of practical measures and policies to achieve best value for money in the area of temporary accommodation in schools and not on the production of a written report. The target outputs of the review include a set of standardised specifications for prefabricated accommodation, a suitable generic contract for the rental of prefabricated accommodation and recommendations for the buy-out of certain prefab rental contracts. My officials will continue to evaluate the progress and outcomes of the review and report to me in this regard.


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