Written Answers. - School Accommodation.

Joe Higgins

Question:

79 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to make an intervention to resolve the Donabate-Portrane Educate Together school's accommodation crisis. [17264/03]

Joe Higgins

Question:

80 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps his Department has taken to reach an agreement with Fingal County Council concerning the use of a site on council land for the Donabate-Portrane Educate Together school. [17265/03]

Joe Higgins

Question:

81 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects the Donabate-Portrane Educate Together school's accommodation crisis to be resolved, in view of the fact that the new school year is approaching shortly. [17266/03]

Seán Ryan

Question:

93 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in the context of the Donabate-Portrane Educate Together national school, he will respond to the documentation received from Fingal County Council which would facilitate the location of temporary accommodation on council owned land in Donabate; and if will he make a statement on the matter in view of the urgency. [17336/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 to 81, inclusive, and 93 together.

Donabate-Portrane Educate Together national school was granted provisional recognition in September 2002. The school authorities were advised at that time that the question of permanent recognition would be considered when the Department was satisfied that long-term viability had been demonstrated and that the school was operating in accordance with the rules for national schools. Until such time as permanent recognition is granted to the school, my Department will not consider purchasing a site to permanently accommodate the school. If and when permanent recognition is granted, budgetary factors will then determine the rate of progress on the acquisition of a site and on the delivery of permanent accommodation for the school.

The school was made aware, on being granted recognition, that it was likely that a period of seven to ten years would elapse before permanent accommodation would be provided given the number of schools already awaiting permanent accommodation and that it would remain the patron's responsibility to provide interim accommodation. As part of the recognition process the school's proposals for accommodating the school were examined and in granting provisional recognition the Department accepted in good faith that the school had arrangements in hand to accommodate the school's growing needs for five to six years. The patron and board of management were instructed to undertake to develop and implement an enrolment policy that would, among other things, provide for incremental growth that would be manageable without overcrowding within the capacity of available accommodation. The available accommodation may necessitate the school in any year having to restrict its intake.

While it is the responsibility of the school authorities to locate suitable temporary accommodation, my Department assists by grant-aiding reasonable rental costs. In relation to the proposal from the school authorities to enter into negotiations with Fingal County Council, my Department has advised that it has no objection in principle to this proposal but naturally any proposal emanating from these discussions will have to offer value for money. There are also a number of technical considerations, including the implications of providing a permanent building at a later stage while a temporary school structure is located on the site. I understand the school authorities have been in contact with Fingal County Council regarding the location of the school on the site in question but no proposal has been received in my Department in this regard. I understand the school is also exploring alternative proposals for its accommodation needs.