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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 26 Mar 2002

Vol. 551 No. 2

Adjournment Debate. - Schools Building Projects.

Scoil Choca Naofa is a small school tucked in behind the Catholic church on the main street in Kilcock. Before the bypass was built, the Minister of State would have passed its door on his way to Mayo. The only entrance to the school is through the church. It was built in 1953 and it had five classrooms.

All of the classrooms in the original school are only two thirds of the recommended size. The largest of the rooms is 23 square yards smaller than that size. There are four prefabs, with all except one being two thirds the recommended size. One ancient wooden specimen that has been there for years is packed with children. The average class size in the school is 30 when the recommended number is 20, with one class having 38 pupils. They are packed into the classrooms. Health and safety considerations are not being dealt with. There is no room for storage, the toilets are totally inadequate and they have never heard of a PE room.

The people of Kilcock are quiet and slow to anger. When they saw the need to have the school upgraded, they applied through official routes and did not approach their public representatives. Eventually they were given sanction for the extension of the school in 2000. Since then not a word has been heard from the Department. The parents in Kilcock are growing angry. These reasonable people feel they were treated with contempt. They now find themselves on the INTO's list of the worst schools in Ireland. The teachers and the parents, however, are proud of the school. I visited it and it is a credit to them how they keep it painted and cleaned on a voluntary basis.

Why has the Department not appointed the architectural team which is the next stage of the process? The Government has the money. The Tánaiste said in a statement that the Government has loads of money and that money belongs to the parents. Not only is money available, we are the eighth richest country in the world.

Does the Government have other priorities? Do children's welfare and education not come before grandiose schemes like the Bertie Bowl? Does that come before basic educational facilities? Are tax breaks for multimillionaire sportspersons and building speculators more important than providing facilities for our children? Is the payment of €250 million to Government consultants more important? I demand that the Minister acts to appoint the architectural team to replace the seven classrooms in Kilcock, to get rid of the prefabs and provide the children and parents of the village with the basic educational facilities to which they are entitled.

I do not want to hear about what the Department is doing elsewhere. I want to know when this school will proceed to the next stage.

I am glad the Deputy has given me the opportunity of outlining to the House the Department of Education and Science's current position regarding the provision of improved accommodation at Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock, County Kildare.

At present, the school has a staffing level of a principal, nine mainstream classroom teachers, two shared remedial teachers, one learning support teacher and a shared resource teacher. The enrolment on 30 September 2001 was 270 pupils.

The school's present facilities consist of six permanent classrooms, three prefabricated classrooms, a GP room and other ancillary accommodation. The school authorities applied to the Department of Education and Science for additional accommodation. The allocation for primary building in 2002 is €153.6 million, a record level of funding that demonstrates this Government's commitment to improving accommodation in primary schools such as Scoil Choca Naofa under its expanded school building programme.

Due to the greatly increased level of activity in the primary building area since this Government came into office, there has been a substantial increase in the number of major and minor building projects in construction. This has given rise to a record level of building and refurbishment activity. A proposed building project for Scoil Choca Naofa will proceed to architectural planning and to the preparation of tender documents as soon as possible under the expanded building programme. In the interim, to alleviate the overcrowding problem, the Department has approved the appointment of an architect to progress the provision of temporary accommodation.

I assure the Deputy the matter will be kept under review having regard to existing commitments and priorities in the primary building area. The Department of Education and Science is fully committed to the provision of improved accommodation at Scoil Choca Naofa and I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline the current position in regard to the school.