Special Educational Needs.

I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity of bringing up this matter on the Adjournment. The pupil to whom I refer has very special needs. She is about to attend Cuilmore national school ar an Choil Mhor. This is an overcrowded school which is already listed as substandard, with deficiencies, including a lack of suitable additional classroom accommodation for the existing 34 pupils with the capacity to cater for the special needs of this pupil. Facilities, including a classroom assistant for supervision in the classroom area, assistants for toilet requirements and supervision in the playground area must be in place before the pupil's schooling starts. Also required are a Heathfield chair, size three; an adjustable height computer table; access to a computer; an area for changing with a mat, changing bench or berth and hygienic disposal of nappies, or the fitting of a children's toilet with two drop-down rails in the girls' toilets; and repair or replacement of the concrete in the playground.

A formal application was submitted in 2001 for a new school building. The current building is over 63 years old and no longer meets the guidelines set down by the Department of Education and Science as suitable accommodation for a primary school. I can vouch for this wonderful, viable, rural community, committed to retaining its school, which is seen as the heart of the neighbourhood and community. The building is damp and in order to retain a comfortable temperature in the classroom the heating must be on all day. When pupils return after the summer holidays, the new books purchased in June are already damp and covered in mildew. Each year the school has a problem with rodents, which gain access to the building due to the sunken rotten floor.

The area limits in each classroom are totally inadequate at 18 sq. meters. This renders both rooms overcrowded and they cannot meet the needs of the three special needs pupils attending the school, with another child to come. In addition, they do not have accommodation for the remedial teacher, resource teacher or a co-ordinator to visit the school. The sanitary facilities are substandard and there are great problems with sewage back-up in the children's play area, as a small sceptic tank installed 60 years ago cannot cope with the increased population in the school. The school grounds are so limited that they are unable to relocate the tank. There are no facilities in place for the physically or visually impaired. Access to the school is via steps, leading from a busy and dangerous main road.

This is a brief outline of the problems that exist in the school. It is a two classroom school, linked by a long damp corridor. The rooms measure 6.5 metres by 5 metres, which is totally inadequate. There is a tiny principal's office which also serves as a resource room, catering for three visiting teachers, learning support resource and BTC. There is a tiny storage area and a very uneven dangerous school yard. There are no proper staff toilets, no toilet for disabled persons, no hot and cold running water, no hand washing or drying facilities and no drinking water. The heating system is inadequate. The school windows and doors are rotting and there is evidence of dampness, mildew and rodent infestation. The corridor linking the classrooms is damp.

There are problems in the area of health and safety. The school has no fire doors, exits from the classrooms are inadequate, no fire escape, no smoke alarm, fire alarm or burglar alarm and no proper fuse box. There is no security lighting. The floor is in an unsafe condition. There are potentially dangerous overhead power lines near the school. The school yard is inadequate and dangerous. There is no general purpose hall, principal's office, staff room, secretary's office, resource room, remedial room, medical room, multi-purpose room or computer room. The classrooms are overcrowded. There is no access to the building for disabled persons. There is no car parking area or bus turning bay. There are no secure staff lockers or children's lockers and storage is inadequate. All the following are in substandard or unsafe condition: plumbing, school yard and grounds, entrance gates, surrounding walls and fencing, wiring, roof, plasterwork, pest-proofing, furniture, boiler house, shelter, sceptic tank and drainage.

The management applied in September 2001 for a new school. The Department is well aware of the situation in the school and the need for something to be done. The school has been pro-active. The board of management had plans drawn up to merge the existing two classrooms into one and build and additional classroom and two ancillary rooms for resource and remedial tuition. They employed at their own cost the services of a chartered county surveyor to cost the project at €260,000.

In September 2003 the school will enrol a pupil with very special needs. She suffers from the rare disorder of absent femur syndrome. Therefore, it is quite clear that something needs to be done in this regard. I hope the Minister of State will address the issue as a matter of urgency.

The matter the Deputy raised was to outline the facilities required for a pupil with special needs to attend the school. However, most of his contribution was about building a new school.

I am pleased to take the opportunity to clarify the position in relation to the question. An application for resource teaching and special needs assistant support for the pupil in question was submitted by Cuilmore national school, Newport, County Mayo, and received in the Department of Education and Science on 23 December 2002. As part of a review process carried out by the national educational psychological service, the school was requested in March to submit all relevant professional reports supporting the application for examination. A reminder issued to the school in April and the national educational psychological service recently reported that the documentation had not yet been forwarded to them. In recent discussions between officials from the Department of Education and Science and the school authorities, they confirmed they would submit the relevant documentation to the Department's special education section. The application for the foregoing supports will be considered when this documentation is received from the school.

The school submitted an application for a computer grant for the pupil in question on 30 May 2003. All relevant documents on this matter were referred to the school inspector for recommendation and when the process is complete, a decision on the application will be conveyed to the school. The Department of Education and Science's capital programme has now been published and full details in relation to individual projects are available on the Department's website. An application for improved accommodation has been received from the management authorities of Cuilmore national school.

However, the Department does not intend to allow further largescale projects into architectural planning during 2003. The timing of when individual projects can progress to architectural planning will depend on the budgetary allocation for next year, the rate of progress of existing projects currently in architectural planning and the priority afforded to each project by reference to the published criteria.

In the meantime, individual schools should use their devolved grant to deal with any urgent health and safety works. The Department of Education and Science's primary building unit received an application for special needs furniture from the management authorities of Cuilmore national school. The Department's building unit is willing to grant aid the furniture and equipment requirements for the pupil in question on receipt of quotations from the school.

I hope this gives the Deputy the up-dated position. Whatever about a new school building, it appears the immediate needs of the pupil will be met provided the paperwork is submitted and in order.

Will it be given priority?