Adjournment Matters. - Castleknock (Dublin) Second Level Education Needs.

Wednesday, 23 June 1993

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 137 No. 1

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Mrs. McGennis: Information on Marian McGennis  Zoom on Marian McGennis  I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Aylward, for taking this matter. I am sure the fact that the Minister of Education is not here is not an indication that she does not take this matter seriously.

The situation is the greater Blanchardstown area, and particularly Castleknock, is that the electorate felt so irate about the lack of a post-primary school that during the last general election they fielded not one but two candidates; they put forward one candidate in Dublin North and in Dublin West because that constituency is divided. This was to highlight the fact that they wanted the post-primary school which they had been promised 20 years previously and which has never been built.

This matter has a long history. A decision was made that a site and a certain type of post-primary school was not suitable. However, a small village with a population of 1,000 has now grown to a large town with a population of approximately 60,000. The facilities have not kept abreast of that growth.

[125] There are post-primary schools in the greater Blanchardstown area and two of the community schools have a student population of approximately 1,000. Educationalists have recognised that it is not possible to provide the best type of educational opportunities for pupils whose numbers exceed 1,000. A considerable number of children are commuting from outside the Blanchardstown area and they have been able to avail of places in schools in Stanhope Street, Brunswick Street, North Richmond Street and on the Navan Road. However, this option is no longer available as the population has also grown in these areas.

Each June I receive numerous telephone calls from people who have been told that there is no place for their children in school. Fortunately, these situations are rectified by September. However, this will not continue. Pickets will continue to be placed at the Dáil gates. I know that every area makes their case for a post-primary school. I am not asking the Minister to be Solomon.

Prior to the general election, the former Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, comissioned an independent report by Professor Bannon to identify the educational requirements, particularly the post-primary requirements, for the Blanchardstown and Dunboyne areas. As a result of that report, a post-primary school, which will cater for the needs of that areas, was sanctioned for Hartstown before the temporary structure was in place. There is now a prefabricated building on the site. However, by the time that school is built there will be insufficient places to cater for the needs of the greater Blanchardstown and Castleknock areas.

There are two private schools in the area, St. Joseph's Convent, Mount Sackville and St. Vincent's, Castleknock. Each time the argument is raised about the provision of a second level school in Castleknock, both of these institutions state that they will provide for the urgent need which exists. However, this has not [126] happened and the people in Castleknock who need post-primary places for their children are unable to afford private education. I am not asking the Minister for Education to be Solomon and decide that Castleknock should have a school and Dunboyne should not, or vice versa.

When the former Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, appointed the Bannon Commission and prior to the last general election, candidates from every party, particularly from the Labour Party demanded that the results of that report be made public. The Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, has not acceded to the request by the local community to make that report public. If this report substantiates the call by the local people for a post-primary school in Castleknock, then the Minister must respond. If it does not, then we can tell the people that the independent report which was commissioned does not state there is a need. The representations I have received indicate there is a need for this school.

Today in the Dublin County Council offices an action plan was presented for the extended area of Castleknock, in Porterstown and Diswellstown, where 2,900 houses will be built. A site is being reserved there by Dublin County Council for a post-primary school. Permission has also been given for a further 1,000 houses in Clonsilla. There is no post-primary school there to cater for the needs of that area. This is probably the fastest growing area in Ireland.

I am not asking the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Aylward, to give a commitment on this matter this evening. The people of the area have their own statistics to show there is a need for this school. I want the Minister to publish the Bannon report. It will prove there is a need for a post-primary school in the greater Blanchardstown and Castleknock areas. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.

[127]Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward): Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I thank Senator McGennis for raising this matter. It gives me an opportunity to clarify the position on behalf of the Minister.

There are two post-primary schools in Castleknock at present, Castleknock College and St. Joseph's Convent, Mount Sackville. Both are fee-paying schools and cater for day and boarding pupils. There has been increasing demand in recent years from local pressure groups for the provision of a non-fee paying school in Castleknock.

Over 90 per cent of pubils from the Castleknock primary schools receive their post-primary education in either St. Dominic's secondary school, Navan Road, St. Declan's CBS, Navan Road, Coolmine Community School, St. Joseph's secondary school, Mount Sackville or St. Vincent's College, Castleknock. Other post-primary schools which are attended by Castleknock pupils in significant numbers are O'Connell's CBS, North Richmond Street, for boys, and Loreto secondary school, Stephen Green and St. Joseph's secondary school, Stanhope Street, for girls.

The Department owns a site in Castleknock on which it was originally intended to build a post-primary school. The question of adequate post-primary accommodation in Castleknock is closely linked to the provision in Hartstown and Dunboyne. In August 1991, following meetings with parental representatives, the then Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, commissioned consultants to assist the Department in a study to determine the need and provision for post-primary school places in the Castleknock, Hartstown, Huntstown and Dunboyne areas. During the course of the study, the local interest groups were afforded the opportunity to meet the consultants and their views were taken into account in the preparation of the report.

The findings of the study indicated that there was an immediate need for a new post-primary school in Hartstown to be [128] followed by a new school in Dunboyne. The findings also indicated that the needs of the Castleknock pupils could continue to be met by the post-primary schools that currently cater for the majority of them. Arrangements have been made on this basis, starting with the provision of a first block of semi-permanent accommodation, to cater for 100 to 150 pupils on the site already acquired for a new second level school in Hartstown in September 1992. A further block of permanent accommodation for 850 pupils is being provided for September 1993.

It is accepted that the data relating to housing and population trends in the Castleknock area, and the capacity of neighbouring schools on which the consultants report, that is the Bannon report, was based now needs to be updated. Accordingly, a further report is being commissioned which will take account of the more recent developments in the area. In the light of the findings of this report and on the basis of the information already available, the second level needs of the Castleknock area will be further considered by my Department.

I appreciate the concern expressed by Senator McGennis in this case and we will communicate with her as soon as the Department has an opportunity to consider the report.

Mrs. McGennis: Information on Marian McGennis  Zoom on Marian McGennis  I thank the Minister for his interest in this issue. I am reluctant to return to the communities in Castleknock and say that another study will soon be commissioned. The data which Dublin County Council has on file and the population census will indicate that the population is increasing in this area. The Minister's reluctance to release the Bannon report speaks volumes.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  We will try to expedite the preparation of that report.

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