Schools Building Projects.

Cherry Orchard is one of the fastest growing areas in my constituency, but it is also, unfortunately, one of the most disadvantaged. The recent news that a primary school for the area was not to be considered in the current phase was a real slap in the face for residents. They have now been relegated to phase six which they feel puts them into a never-never land category and they are frustrated and annoyed that this project is being deferred again.

A wonderful plan has been drawn up for a new primary school which is imaginative and progressive. It includes pre-school facilities as well as a conventional primary school, a post-school facility and provision for a homework club and support groups. It represents a wonderful idea which gave a ray of hope to this very disadvan taged community. It is estimated that about 1,000 children leave the area every day to attend primary schools in adjoining localities. Some walk and some use public transport. It is ironic that some of the parents who campaigned for school buses in 1988 are still campaigning for a primary school now. They have still not been successful in getting buses for their children, some of whom are, happily, in third level.

It is almost as if there is a conspiracy to make school attendance in the area difficult. Children as young as eight have dropped out of school despite the fact that there are competent, willing and able volunteers in the area who are not legally entitled to provide an alternative form of educational facility. This is a matter that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. There is no attendance officer in the area to monitor these children and because they are spread around different primary schools it is virtually impossible to track what happens to them in terms of moving to second level. The drop-out rate is huge and is impossible to calculate.

There is a wonderful new equine centre in the area which has been a great boost and looks like it will be widely used. However, it is of very little value if it is not supported by the other key infrastructural units which the area needs. There was a great sense of expectation at the prospect of the new school, but that has been replaced by anger and bitter disappointment in the local community. Parents saw the primary school as a pivotal part of the social and economic development of the area. Cherry Orchard needs that more than most areas and I call on the Minister to review the position and include this school in the plans for the current year rather than consign it to the also-ran group.

I am glad the Deputy has given me the opportunity, on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, to outline to the House the current position of the Department of Education and Science with regard to the allocation of funding for school building projects.

The 2003 capital programme has been published and full details of individual projects are available on the Department of Education and Science website www.education.ie. The programme is designed to provide the maximum amount of information to managers, boards of management, principals, parents and students. The criteria used for selecting projects have also been published for the first time. This year's building programme amounts to €342.9 million, which is four times the amount allocated in 1997, and delivers over 140 large-scale projects at primary and post-primary level. In addition, over 400 schools will benefit in some way from the capital programme. All primary schools benefit directly from the devolved grants scheme for minor works.

There is no primary school in Cherry Orchard.

The budgetary allocation for 2004 and subsequent years will determine the rate of progress on projects currently in architectural planning, including the proposed new school at Cherry Orchard. The management authorities at individual schools should continue to use funds from their devolved grant to deal with urgent health and safety matters.

I thank the Deputy again for giving me, on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, the opportunity of outlining the current position to the House.

The people involved have already accessed the website and they were not impressed by what they found there.