Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Schools Building Projects

Photo of Christopher O'SullivanChristopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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148. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of progress under the School Building Programme, including sustainability measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23666/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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Under Project Ireland 2040, the education sector will receive a total of approximately €4.4 billion capital investment over the period 2021-2025. This significant investment allows us to move forward with certainty on our ambitious plans and deliver high quality building projects, with a real focus on sustainability, for school communities across Ireland.

This investment will build on the good progress being made on adding capacity to cater for demographic changes and provision for children with special educational needs. This investment will also facilitate an increased focus on the modernisation of existing school stock and help transition the school system for an era of net zero carbon by 2050.

My Department has a large pipeline of projects for delivery under the school building programme. The main elements of this pipeline currently involve in excess of 1,300 school building projects for delivery under the Department’s Large Scale and Additional Accommodation Scheme. These projects are currently in progress across the various stages of planning, design, tender and construction. Most of which are expected to be either under construction or completed in the period up to 2025 and are being progressed as quickly as possible

There are currently in excess of 250 school building projects at construction (on site) with a continuous stream of other projects at or near the tendering stage.

It is anticipated that 150 to 200 school building projects will be completed annually during the 2022 to 2025 period.

During the period 2018 to 2021 691 school building projects were completed under the Large Scale Capital Programme (LSCP) and the Additional School Accommodation Scheme (ASA). These projects delivered in excess of 64,000 school places.

My Department is at the forefront of design with respect to sustainable energy in school buildings and this performance has been recognised at both National and International level with sustainable energy awards for excellence in Design and Specification.

New renewable technologies and approaches are tested to ensure compatibility with school design and operational requirements under the research programme. Successful and repeatable results are then incorporated into all new school designs and refurbishments through my Department’s Technical Guidance Documents, which set the benchmark for sustainable design in school buildings with a clear focus on energy efficiency. The Department’s policy is supported by a strong research programme with fifty three research projects at various stages including the energy website www.energyineducation.ie. which is a joint partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Schools designed and built in accordance with the Department’s schools technical guidance documents have been achieving A3 Building Energy Ratings since 2009 with schools typically achieving up to 20% higher performance and 25% better carbon performance than required by the 2019 Building Regulations, along with 10% of primary energy provided via photovoltaics and infrastructure provision for electric vehicle charging.

The Department have been using test schools to evaluate the suitability of renewable energy options for schools over the past twenty plus years. Nearly 60 % of the research programme features renewable aspects. These renewables include wind generation, solar hot water heating, photovoltaics, rain water recovery, geothermal heat pumps, air source heat pumps and biomass heating systems. Results have varied with respect to their applicability in a school environment. Research continues in many areas.

My Department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications established a jointly funded pathfinder programme with the SEAI, testing and demonstrating energy efficiency and decarbonisation retrofit approaches. This pathfinder is a great example of collaboration ensuring the deployment of new design approaches and technologies are introduced to the educational environment on an evidence based approach.

This Pathfinder programme is paving the way for, and informing, a much larger national schools’ programme for the energy retrofit of schools built prior to 2008 as included in the National Development Plan. It is facilitating research on a range of typical retrofit options, which will have been tried and tested. It is providing valuable development information for a solution driven delivery strategy which will be founded on a solid evidence base that has proven the robustness and scalability of renewable solutions within the schools’ sector.

The longer-term outcome of the pathfinder will be to create an accurate and scalable model for energy efficient retrofits of schools across Ireland.

The pathfinder programme builds on significant investment by the Department of Education in energy efficiency through the 2009/10 Cavity and Attic Insulation/Water Conservation Scheme and ongoing Summer Works and refurbishment projects.

The upgrades target a Building Energy Rating of B, 50% energy efficiency improvement and 51% emissions reduction. The works typically involves upgrades to the building fabric including wall and roof insulation, doors and windows, air tightness improvements, LED lighting and heating upgrades as well as renewable technologies.

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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149. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her Department’s position regarding the construction of a new secondary school in the east Cork catchment area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23832/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy may be aware, for school planning purposes, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and utilises a Geographical Information System to anticipate school place demand. Information from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data, school enrolment data and information on residential development activity is used for this purpose. Additionally, Project Ireland 2040 population and housing targets inform my Department's projections of school place requirements.

Having considered the projected requirements in each school planning area, my Department then makes an assessment of the existing capacity within that particular area and its ability to meet any increased demand.

Where data indicates that additional provision is required at primary or post primary level, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

·Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,

·Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

·Provision of a new school or schools.

My Department's projections of post primary school place requirements in East Cork show some continued growth in enrolments in the short- to medium-term across most areas, with most growth anticipated in the Midleton_Carrigtwohill school planning area.

However, in response to projected future need and to enrolment pressures in the area, there has been significant capital investment by my Department at post primary schools in East Cork. A new post primary school, Carrigtwohill Community College, was established in 2016. A project to deliver a new, modern 1,000 pupil school building for that school is underway. Additionally, an extension at St. Colman's Community College, Midleton has been recently completed and a number of other large school building projects are also in train, delivering expanded capacity at St. Aloysius' College in Carrigtwohill, Midleton CBS, St. Mary's High School in Midleton, Pobalscoil na Tríonóide in Youghal, Coláiste an Phiarsaigh in Glanmire. Coláiste Mhuire Cobh and Carrignafoy Community College in Cobh.

While my Department is aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional school places in East Cork, it is important to note that where enrolment pressures arise, it may not be as a result of lack of accommodation but may be driven by the following factors:

- Duplication of applications – pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area

- School of choice – pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town/area

- Some towns/areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school they are not available to all pupils

- External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area

My Department is working to establish the true extent of any capacity issues through ongoing discussions with the relevant school authorities. In that context, similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department is engaging with patron bodies, including patrons of schools in East Cork areas, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming years which may necessitate further action to that already in train including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions.

As a result of ongoing discussions with patrons in the School Planning Area, St Colman’s College, Midleton has recently offered places for an additional 1styear class group for the 2022/23 school year.

Additionally, my Department will continue to work to advance the planned and current projects in East Cork and to ensure sufficient places for both mainstream provision and for pupils with special education requirements both for the coming academic year and into the future.

Given medium- to long-term projected demographic trends, it is not currently anticipated that there will be a requirement for a further new post primary school in the area, nevertheless, my Department will continue to monitor the situation.

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