Thursday, 31 January 2008
Seanad Eireann Debate
Senator Jerry Buttimer: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. I refer to the provision of a new campus for St. Angela’s secondary school, St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork. Political promises were made and meetings with officials of the Department of Education and Science held but action by the Department is required. I hope the Minister of State will provide clarity on progress on this issue in his reply. It is extraordinary that in the dying days of the Celtic tiger era schools in Cork city require urgent development.
Parents, young girls, teachers and the board of management are exasperated by the lack of movement and progress on the development of the campus. How has the Government allowed schools to operate when they are in dire need of repair, and this despite our economic prosperity and growth? The students, board of management, teachers and parents have lobbied extensively for the provision of a new school campus. The basics of a specialist room, physical education hall, purpose-built science laboratory, home economics room, school canteen and a proper assembly hall are lacking at present, as are facilities for drama, art and music. Provision must also be made for disabled students. It behoves us as public representatives to come up with a meaningful response to this Adjournment matter, so I ask the Minister of State to give a positive reply.
Deputy Michael Ahern: On behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, I thank Senator Buttimer for raising the matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the House the Government’s strategy for capital investment in education projects and the position regarding St. Angela’s secondary school in Cork city.
Modernising facilities in our 3,200 primary and 750 post-primary schools is not an easy task given the legacy of decades of under-investment in this area as well as the need to respond to emerging needs in areas of rapid population growth. Nonetheless, since taking office, the Government has shown a focused determination to improve the condition of our school buildings and to ensure the appropriate facilities are in place to enable the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum. As evidence of our commitment, national development plan, NDP, funding of €4.5 billion will be invested in schools over the coming years. The Senator will agree this record level of investment is a positive testament to the high priority the Government attaches to ensuring school accommodation is of the highest standard possible.
St. Angela’s school is an all girls post-primary school with a current enrolment of 524 pupils. Enrolments at the school have remained stable over the past five years. An extension and refurbishment project proposed for the school is at the early stages of architectural planning. The Department of Education and Science requested the project’s design team to complete a schedule of accommodation based on 500 pupils, giving consideration to utilising the existing school building and site only or utilising the existing school building and site and the St. Angela’s Convent building and grounds. The design team quantity surveyor was requested to update the estimated costs for the proposed project taking into account decanting costs and the implications of the potential options.
It is understood following consideration by the design team that to provide accommodation for a 500-pupil school the convent building and gardens will be required. The existing school site is restricted. At a recent meeting with the Department, the trustees confirmed that the Ursuline Order is willing to sell the convent building and gardens to the Department and is prepared to cede the current school building and site. The trustees’ offer is being considered by the Department.
Progression of this project is predicated on the acquisition of the convent building and gardens and the extension and refurbishment of the existing buildings, which will include the need to decant the existing cohort of students. The proposed building project for St. Angela’s will be considered for progression in the context of the multi-annual school building and modernisation programme.
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