I thank my colleague, the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, for designating the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, to answer this question. I am grateful for that. Firhouse Educate Together post-primary school is to cater for 1,000 pupils, and it may be the only such school planned for my constituency. I welcome the efforts made by officials, management, staff and all the stakeholders in securing a site for a much-needed permanent home for this school, which will house 1,000 pupils when it is complete. A formal planning application has been submitted to South Dublin County Council for temporary accommodation at a site adjacent to Ballycullen Green, which is off the Old Court Road in Ballycullen–Firhouse. It is a site which will not be without its challenges, particularly regarding access, traffic movement, etc.
However, the reason I chose this subject for a Topical Issue debate centres on my concerns regarding the manner in which the Department of Education took a decision, pending the outcome of the planning application by the Department for a temporary site for the school, to relocate Firhouse Educate Together secondary school to the grounds of the existing Firhouse Community College, which has been in that community for many years. I understand the decision was made to ensure Firhouse Educate Together secondary school opens in September, which I welcome. My concern, though, relates to the manner in which that decision was communicated to Firhouse Community College and to the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board, DDLETB, was truly poor. It caused a great deal of genuine and deep hurt and upset to the management, students, parents association and staff of Firhouse Community College.
I think the principal just heard about the decision the night before the news was made public. Until that stage, I do not think Firhouse Community College had considered that it was really a live option being considered by the Department of Education. It was a shock to hear the news that Firhouse Educate Together secondary school will be temporarily located on the grounds of Firhouse Community College from September, and the college will have no say in that. Equally, people who live in neighbouring estates, residents associations and parents councils will have no input into this decision. The decision had been made.
Therefore, there are several pieces to pick up and several questions to pose regarding this matter. First, I ask that the Minister of State communicate to the Minister for Education that this process was handled in a disrespectful manner when it comes to Firhouse Community College. I put that on the record tonight. In organising the temporary relocation of Firhouse Educate Together post-primary school to the grounds of Firhouse Community College, a commitment was given that it will be for a maximum of a year. I want a commitment and a guarantee from the Minister for Education that that is the case.
If the separate ongoing planning application is successful, then that will ensure the relocation to the grounds of Firhouse Community College will be temporary. An appeal or prolonged process regarding the planning application for temporary accommodation on another site, however, will cause real concern to the parents, staff and management of Firhouse Community College. Can it be guaranteed and committed to that the temporary relocation will be for an absolute maximum of one academic year?