Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
290. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will enumerate which towns and villages in County Laois are being considered by the developing areas unit of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5245/09]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): As the Deputy will be aware, the main emphasis in 2008 was on providing sufficient school places in developing areas such as Portlaoise, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. In this context, a new 8 classroom school was provided in September 2008 for Gaelscoil Portlaoise. A new 16 classroom school was constructed for Portarlington Convent National School. Construction has also commenced on a new 8 classroom school for Emo.
A new 8 classroom school for the Convent of Mercy in Borris in Ossory was included in my announcement of 23rd January, to proceed to tender and construction. In Mountrath, a new Community School catering for 650 pupils commenced construction in July 2008. It is envisaged that it will be ready for occupation in September, 2009.
As part of the first Bundle of PPP projects, two post-primary schools catering for 850 pupils each will be built in Portlaoise. These projects which are on the one site will accommodate St. Mary’s CBS and Scoil Chríost Rí. The Forward Planning Section of my Department is currently identifying the areas throughout the country where significant additional accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level in the medium to long term. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. Those areas identified that require additional capacity will be addressed in the context of my Department’s Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.
291. Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the full costs of renting prefabs for all schools in Cork City and county who do so; the length of time these schools have been renting prefabs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5290/09]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): Currently there are 282 prefabricated units being rented by 116 schools in Cork city and County. The total annual rental cost amounts to €4 million. Rental of these units commenced as follows:
In general, the Department approves the purchase or rental of prefabricated classrooms based on need at the time of application. Local school managements then organise their class numbers, year on year, to achieve the optimum local efficiencies. In all cases school managements are required to seek 3 tenders to achieve value for money before approval is given to rent, with the lowest suitable tender being approved.
The demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years, with the appointment of 6,000 extra teachers in the primary sector alone since 2002. In considering the need to provide extra resource and other teachers to schools in recent years, the Government could have decided to make children wait until permanent accommodation could be provided. However, it was decided to prioritise the placement of the extra teachers into schools as soon as possible.
The Permanent Accommodation Scheme was introduced in 2003 to reduce the need for prefabs. It was designed to give value for money in terms of providing permanent accommodation in place of prefabs, where an accommodation need was likely to exist for a considerable length of time. Since its introduction, over €100m has been allocated to schools under the scheme and it has resulted in the provision of an additional 625 classrooms and 275 resource rooms in schools around the country, thereby reducing the demand for prefabs.
It will continue to be necessary for prefabricated accommodation to be provided because competing priorities mean that it will not always be possible to have a permanent accommodation solution in place in a short time-frame.
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