Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Limerick City Secondary Schools.

46.

asked the Minister for Education whether all applicants for admission to secondary schools in Limerick city can be accommodated at the commencement of the new school year in September next; and if he will give full details regarding applications for admission and available accommodation at each secondary school in Limerick city.

47.

asked the Minister for Education what proposals for new secondary school buildings and extensions to existing buildings in Limerick city are at present with his Department; and when work is likely to commence in each case.

Mr. O'Malley

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 47 together. While I have not details of applications for admission to individual secondary schools in Limerick city an overall survey which my Department has made of the post-primary education position there discloses that the number of school places available is 5,155 and that the estimated pupil potential is 5,025. Of the available places 4,335 are in secondary schools and 820 in vocational schools. I should like to remind the Deputy in this connection that the scheme relates to free post-primary education and that it was not envisaged at any time that there would necessarily be secondary school places for all pupils seeking post-primary education. In most European countries the position is that places in academic secondary schools are provided for only about one out of every three pupils.

In addition to providing places in secondary schools at present for three out of every four pupils, we have the position here that a pupil may enter a vocational school and proceed all the way to the leaving certificate.

With a view to replacing unsuitable accommodation and to providing for the full potential of Limerick city and the adjoining areas, three major schemes of extension and two new schools in replacement of existing secondary schools are planned for Limerick city.

Could the Minister say whether or not a situation has arisen in relation to one or two secondary schools in Limerick, where applicants for admission to the first year secondary course had to be turned away, in which there is a question of temporary prefabricated buildings being provided? I have in mind Sexton St. Christian Brothers and the Presentation Convent. Can I take it that temporary prefabricated buildings will be provided by September, to enable them to accept all who seek admission to these particular schools?

Mr. O'Malley

May I say this, a Cheann Comhairle, that next September, as I said on several occasions both in the Seanad and here, no child will be denied a place free of cost in a post-primary school. I repeat what I said then, that I cannot give a choice of school.

On the question raised by the Deputy, prefabricated classrooms are being provided in the following cases in Limerick; the Convent of Mercy in Bishop Street, two classrooms; the Presentation Convent, which he mentioned, four rooms, and three rooms for St. Munchin's. Also, Deputy O'Donnell mentioned Sexton Street: there was some difficulty there about children getting in but with the cooperation of all interested parties, the position has eased somewhat. Anyway, arrangements are being made in Sexton Street Christian Brothers' School and the Brother Ignatius Rice School on the Ennis Road to cater for two additional classrooms in both places. Finally, he asked me will these be up by September—they will, yes.

Could the Minister say whether there is a question of providing additional accommodation at St. Mary's Convent Secondary School at the moment? I understand that a proposal for an extension to the secondary school building has been with the Department for a year and a half or two years.

Mr. O'Malley

Is this the Salesian Convent?

No; the Mount St. Vincent in O'Connell Avenue; the Mount Secondary School.

Mr. O'Malley

I do not appear to have an application from them. I have given approval to the Salesians for the Marie Auxiliatrix to go to tender immediately. I have given that approval and I have no record of another one here.

Will the arrangements the Minister has made meet the demands for secondary education in Limerick?

Will there be anything left for Donegal?

Mr. O'Malley

Yes; I would answer `yes' to that, but you cannot give just a straight answer. There will be growing-pains and there will be difficulties, but no pupil will be denied a place. Now, a child may be offered a place in one school when he might prefer to go to another. This will happen for a few years. In Limerick city, I might say that there are 5,155——

The Minister should not be flying off the handle.

Mr. O'Malley

I am not flying off the handle. There are 5,155 places in Limerick city at present, without any of this extra accommodation I mentioned. The potential student demand in the city is 5,035. On paper, that would look as if there was no problem——

Will they be taken down from Donegal?

Mr. O'Malley

——but what is happening is that children are coming in from the county, part of which is in my constituency.

While we are all gratified at this ministerial benevolence towards Limerick, will there be the same amount of prefabricated classrooms and amenities available all over the country, including Donegal?

Mr. O'Malley

I have been accused of not giving preferential treatment to Limerick.

I did not mean that.

The overstatement of the generation!

Is the Minister giving preferential treatment to Limerick?

Mr. O'Malley

I should like to say, on the important matter mentioned by Deputy Lindsay that for any area of the country which applies to my Department and can justify an application for a prefabricated school, we will arrange that they are provided.

Just one last question: the Minister raised a very interesting point there in his very detailed reply to my supplementary.

I have given him enough praise: let the Deputy not start.

In the event of a pupil seeking admission to, we will say, secondary school A and there is not accommodation available in that school, what procedure or what method is open to him to seek alternative accommodation? Does he just go around himself to the various schools? I have come across this myself, with parents coming to me and saying: "My son has not been able to get into school A, can you get him into school B or school C?"

Mr. O'Malley

I sent two inspectors down to spend a few days in Limerick to deal with the whole position and I will communicate with the Deputies for the constituency—the public representatives—in due course. The matter is not fully clear in my mind.

Between Donegal and Agriculture and Limerick and Education——

Will children get free transport to the other schools if they do not get into the school of their choice?

I thought we had left Limerick.

I would never leave Limerick.

Mr. O'Malley

What about a university down there?

(Interruptions.)

Could the Minister say how soon we will have it?