I assume the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, is taking this debate. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me raise this matter, which pertains to the need to refurbish the laboratories in the Christian Brothers' second level school in Midleton, County Cork.
Dr. Bill Harris, with whom the Minister is familiar, stated at a recent committee meeting that there is nothing more important than a hands-on approach to science. He said teaching science as a history and mathematics in a theoretical and abstract way will turn students off the subjects. He challenged Ireland to produce an education system that is the best in the world and which is measured by the performance of the students. If we do not get this right, third level research and third level education in general will not matter.
The Minister is probably aware that the school in Midleton was built in the early 1970s, 33 years ago, and virtually nothing has been done with the laboratory since then. The school applied for funding under the summer work scheme but the application was shot down and the school was very disappointed as a result. I note that under the scheme there are a number of criteria to be adhered to, one of which pertains to gas works. Projects are required to ensure that required safety standards associated with the use of gas in schools are satisfied. Those standards do not apply in the school in Midleton because it uses camping gas. The Minister, as a former Minister for Education and Science, will agree this is not acceptable.
I know the Minister has much interest in Midleton and I ask him to take an interest in this issue. He has visited the school and perhaps he will stress to his ministerial colleague in the Department of Education and Science the importance of funding the school as a matter of urgency. The two existing laboratories are in urgent need of refurbishment. The gas supply system, having been in place for 33 years, has broken down and needs to be replaced. The electrical system is inadequate, having given a great deal of trouble in recent years, and the plumbing fittings also need to be replaced. The benches need to be replaced. The display cabinets are of a DIY-type construction and are not up to standard. A third laboratory has long been a necessity, and this is accepted by the Department. It is important that action be taken very soon.
I see we have a changing of the guard across the way.