Adjournment Matters. - Schools Building Projects.

I welcome the Minister to the House. This matter concerns Wandesford national school, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. The principal recently wrote to me to inform me of the circumstances that currently exist in the school, where, for 35 years, a prefab has been used as accommodation for some of the pupils. It is an unusual school in that it is one of only two Church of Ireland schools in County Kilkenny; there are not too many Church of Ireland national schools in the rest of the country. It caters for approximately 60 students, mainly from Kilkenny but also from Laois and Carlow. The school has applied for a new school building due to overcrowding for the past number of years and it wishes to know at what stage its application stands. I am interested to hear the official departmental response to the request for this badly needed new school.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a glacadh leis an Seanadóir as ucht an cheist a ardú. I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I also thank him for being brief and I hope I come to the point equally quickly. The Minister for Education and Science decided to publish the 2003 school building programme on the Department's website to give the maximum amount of information concerning the school's capital investment programme to managers, boards of management, principals, parents, students and all other interested parties. The criteria used for selecting projects were also published for the first time.

An application was received from Wandesford Church of Ireland national school, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny, in May 2001. Following this application the planning section within the Department of Education and Science carried out an assessment of the staffing requirements of the school. It concluded that the school has a long-term accommodation need for staffing of a principal, two assistants and one shared remedial teacher. Subsequently, an architectural condition survey was carried out on the school by staff from the Department's building unit.

However, as stated in the 2003 capital programme, the Department of Education and Science does not intend to allow further large-scale projects into architectural planning during 2003. The timing of when individual projects can progress to architectural planning will depend on the budgetary allocation for 2004 and subsequent years, the rate of progress with existing projects in architectural planning and the priority afforded to each project by reference to the published criteria for prioritising large-scale building projects. In the meantime, individual schools should use their devolved grant to deal with any urgent health and safety works. I regret that I cannot give the Senator any further information.