Tuesday, 21 October 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Hayes: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise the important issue of the condition of St. Ailbe's vocational school in Tipperary town. The school has 490 students, down from 680 in 1997. As in many others towns, the school is competing with others in the area, namely, the convent and the Christian Brothers school. It deals with children of unemployed parents, of whom there are many, particularly in Tipperary town which, as the Minister knows, has suffered numerous job losses in recent years, hence its inclusion in the RAPID programme. In that context, the Government has been helpful to the people of the town and the programme is making an impact where it is important. However, Tipperary is still the second poorest town in the country.
Anyone who visits St. Ailbe's vocational school recently, as I did two weeks ago, will see at first hand the deplorable state in which it is. When it was built in the 1970s, the builder got into financial difficulties which led to problems with workmanship on the building, wherein lies the real problem. I understand the school authorities have requested assistance from the Department of Education and Science in order to carry out top-class refurbishment of the school. I cannot overstate the importance of the repair works which need to be carried out. A recent report showed that many areas needed to be dealt with.
It is deplorable to expect staff to sit in the cramped, airless conditions in the school's staff room. The Minister knows the importance of creating the right conditions in order that teachers can do their work. The administration area must be enlarged as it is too small. The reception area – just inside the door – is too confined while the woodwork, metalwork and other rooms all need refurbishment. The project has been submitted to the Department of Education and Science and I hope for good news from the Minister tonight or, if not, in the near future, when his Cabinet colleague can let the authorities know when they can expect it.
South Tipperary has benefited hugely from the Government's making finance available in recent years, particularly in Cashel, Cahir, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. However, Tipperary town feels left out, particularly in regard to its vocational school. I hope we will have good news in the near future.
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): On my own behalf and that of the Minister for Education and Science, I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it provides me with an opportunity to outline to the House the current position on an application for refurbishment works at St. Ailbe's school in Tipperary town.
St. Ailbe's is a co-educational second level school with an enrolment of 388 pupils. It is one of three post-primary schools operating in Tipperary town, the others being St. Anne's secondary school and the Abbey School. County Tipperary South Riding Vocational Education Committee, the management authority of St. Ailbe's, has submitted an application for additional accommodation and refurbishment works. This application is under consideration in the school planning section of the Department of Education and Science. In advance of making any major capital investment at the school and consistent with standard practice in the Department, the long-term viability of the school must be assessed. This assessment is being undertaken by the school planning section. Pending its completion, substantial capital investment cannot be made at the school. The Minister for Education and Science wishes to confirm also that the Department has recently received a revised health and safety report and a revised report on proposed remedial works at the school from the VEC. Both reports are being examined in school planning section in the context of the overall assessment to which I referred. In the meantime, any urgent minor works required to be undertaken at the school will be considered as part of the 2004 capital programme.
I am pleased to inform the House that over the last five years the Department has provided almost €170,000 in capital funding for St. Ailbe's. This money was expended on perimeter fencing, replacement ceilings, floors and heating.
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