I thank the office of An Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter for a Topical Issue debate this evening. I am very glad the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, is here to take the debate. An application from St. Aidan's comprehensive school in Cootehill, County Cavan has been with the Minister's Department for a long time. It relates to the provision of a new PE hall and socialisation space, an extension to the woodwork and engineering rooms and general refurbishment work. From replies to representations to the Department and parliamentary questions, I understand that this application has been under consideration and under assessment for some time. In recent years, some necessary improvement and upgrading works have been carried out at St. Aidan's comprehensive school. There is an urgent need to provide these additional facilities and I urge the Minister to have the application progressed, finalised and approved at the earliest possible date.
St. Aidan's was one of the first comprehensive schools, having been built back in 1966. We should be thankful that there has been substantial growth in enrolment in recent years with 512 students now enrolled. There is an extra first year class this year and it is projected that there will be another additional first year for the 2020-21 school year. This is a sure sign of the positive role the school plays in the community and of the determination of parents to have the opportunity to send their students to St. Aidan's.
These applications were originally made some years ago in respect of a substantial upgrading of St. Aidan's. They have been revised in the meantime. When this project is approved, Cavan and Monaghan education and training board, ETB, will manage it. As the Minister is aware, our local ETB has been very successful in managing building projects for both primary and second level schools over the past 11 or 12 years. As he will be aware, the projects managed by Cavan and Monaghan ETB have represented very good value for money for the Exchequer and the taxpayer and have been delivered on time and under budget. I am sure that, when the Minister approves funding for the St. Aidan's comprehensive school project, it will also be delivered on time and under budget.
The applications relate to the PE hall, necessary upgrading of the woodwork and engineering rooms and an art room. There is also a requirement to undertake general refurbishment works including, very importantly, the upgrading of an old heating system. It is clear that upgrading and refurbishment works are necessary for a building that is more than 50 years old and which has been in use practically every day during that time.
I have had the opportunity to visit the school on many occasions. The good educational environment and the good leadership of the principal, Mary Ann Smith, her deputy principal, and the entire staff of the school, including both teaching and support staff, are clear to anybody who visits. Along with other Oireachtas Members, I recently visited the school for the opening of a room for students with hearing impairments, for the presentation of another green flag to the school, and for the presentation of a health promoting schools flag, the result of another very welcome initiative and achievement of the school. That was a very worthy endeavour and great credit is due to the teachers and students who participated in these competitions and who won those awards.
Apart from the school's core work of teaching subjects and delivering education, there has always been a very varied and worthwhile programme of extracurricular activities. It is delightful to see the many awards won in different sporting disciplines when one enters the reception area of the school. In recent years, the school has successfully competed in county, provincial and national competitions in camogie, basketball, soccer, and Gaelic football. Many of the school's teams have taken national awards home with them. We are very aware of the need for people to participate in sport. Great credit is due to the school and to the staff who take on the coaching and management of different teams. That work goes on well after normal school hours. The lack of basic PE facilities is very frustrating for the coaches, management teams and those preparing teams.
As well as good leadership from the principal, deputy principal and all the school staff, there is a very active board of management and an equally active and committed parents' association. All the members of these bodies, as well as the public representatives who support them, are determined to ensure this building project proceeds to construction as soon as possible. The Minister's assistance in this respect would be much appreciated.