School Accommodation

I thank the Ceann Comhairle and the Minister of State for taking this Adjournment matter. The gaelcoláiste has been in temporary accommodation since its instigation a number of years ago. It was first situated in the Curragh before moving to Naas. Now it is proposed that it should move back to Kildare town. The arrangement in place with the gaelcoláiste situated in Naas and the proposed move to Kildare town in November was agreed last summer at a meeting between the patron and the former Minister for Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan. An official from the Department was present at that meeting and it was agreed that the standard accommodation provided for the gaelcoláiste would be on a par with that provided in the other second level schools in the area. It was further agreed that there would be sufficient accommodation available to meet the growing needs of the school.

A further meeting took place in Tullamore last Thursday, 16 June, with staff of the Department's building section. To put it mildly, rather than move the situation forward this meeting left the patron with major concerns about the future of the school. The Department offered the current VEC building in Kildare town on a take it or leave it basis and was unwilling to contemplate any structural changes before the school's proposed move to this premises. This move would force the school to reduce its intake and restrict the curriculum on offer because the building is not sufficiently large to cater for its growing needs. The school required 12 classrooms for the school year 2010-2011 and will require 14 classrooms as its enrolment continues to expand. The VEC building has only ten possible classrooms available and to bring science, home economics and art rooms up to health and safety standards would reduce the complement to nine, two of which are too small for a normal-sized class.

A move to this location without proper development will strangle the school. I cannot comprehend how this situation has been allowed to develop. There are several gaelscoileanna in Kildare, with more likely to be established in the coming years, but provision has still not been made for suitable premises for Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara. There is little sense in facilitating the establishment of gaelscoileanna if the facilities are not in place for the provision of education through the Irish language at secondary level. It is a ridiculous situation. The school has the support of wonderful parents who have gone out of their way time and again to ensure their children are educated. The school has a wonderful principal and a wonderful mechanism for the provision of second level education through the medium of Irish. However, it is being obstructed at every step. It is incredible that it is being moved from one inadequate facility to another.

The school put a proposal to the Department that it be permitted to rent one of the two secondary schools in Kildare town which are no longer in use following their amalgamation into a new school premises. That proposal was given short shrift. Instead the school is offered a facility that is inadequate to meet the needs of current pupils and facilitate the inevitable expansion in enrolment. Two adequate premises are available but the Department will allow neither to be used to accommodate Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara. There is little evidence of forward thinking from the Department on this matter. This school's enrolment is bound to increase in the coming years given the growing enrolment in the various gaelscoileanna in the surrounding area. The school must be permitted either to rent one of the vacant school premises that are adequate to its needs, which would probably not entail a much greater cost than that of its current set-up, or the VEC premises must be developed to meet its requirements.

I ask the Minister of State to convey the urgency of this matter to the Minister for Education and Skills. This is not a fair deal for Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara and it is totally unacceptable that the board of management of the school, its pupils and their parents should be treated in this fashion.

I listened carefully to what the Deputy said and I hope those who will make the decision on this matter are also listening. I am replying to this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn . I thank the Deputy for affording me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position regarding the provision of accommodation for Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara. This all-Irish post-primary school commenced operation in September 2003 with an initial enrolment of eight pupils, which had increased to 155 by September 2010. The school currently operates with temporary recognition under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta. The matter of permanent recognition is being considered by the Department.

The school is currently located on a temporary basis in a former VEC school building in Naas which must be vacated. However, it will be available to the school for the commencement of the 2011-12 school year. The Department has secured the use of a building in Kildare town that is currently occupied by Kildare vocational school and which the latter will vacate at the end of June. This premises will provide permanent accommodation for the school in the long term. A technical assessment of the building has been carried out and refurbishment works and an extension will be necessary to accommodate Gael-Choláiste Chill Dara. It is intended to proceed with the required works on a phased basis as soon as possible.

The school has indicated its preference to relocate to another premises in Kildare town, but the Department understands this building is not available as it is required for other purposes. In a recent meeting the Department outlined to the school's representatives how it intends to cater for the long-term accommodation needs of the school in Kildare town. Both parties also agreed to maintain ongoing contact on this matter.