Schools Building Projects.

Some six months ago I raised the matter of a new second level school in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath when a religious order had offered a greenfield site for school accommodation. I was informed work was in hand to establish the projected enrolment figures for the school. I am hoping that task has been completed. The land for the proposed new school building has been signed and sealed. I have been approached again by parents to see if the ground has shifted on the project. If not, why not? What is the up-to-date news about the school's plans?

The parents believe that the project is ready to go to tender. I explained to them there are six stages involved. They want to get beyond the enrolment phase as they know the number of pupils the catchment area will yield. It is a popular school offering a range of subjects both technical and academic. Many years ago it was scheduled for closure but I knew it had a future. As the then Minister for Education I put my faith and money into necessary building work which allowed it to continue. Times have moved on, the range of subjects has changed and so too the expectations of parents and students.

I am taking the matter on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin.

The recently published area development plan for the N4-M4 corridor equips the Department with a blueprint for education services development in an area that will continue to experience rapid change. Senator O'Rourke will be aware I began that process when I was Minister for Education and Science. The plan highlighted the need to reserve a site for a new post-primary school in Kinnegad, which will be needed after 2011. Officials in the Department will meet with Westmeath County Council in the coming weeks to discuss this issue.

With regard to the proposed secondary school for Kilbeggan, the N4-M4 area development plan recommended that Meánscoil an Chlochair, Kilbeggan, "should be relocated to a greenfield site" and "should cater for circa 500 to 550 students" and that "a strict enrolment policy should be in place to ensure that priority is given to students within the catchment area".

An examination of the school's long-term projected enrolments is being carried out by the school planning section. When the long-term projected enrolment is established and agreed with the school, the Department will draw up a schedule of overall accommodation for the proposed new school building. In addition, the school planning section has carried out a technical inspection of the existing school building to determine its suitability. Following this assessment, a new site not far from the existing school is being actively considered by the Department for this project.

While the N4-M4 report did not cover Mullingar, the school planning section, aware that it is an area of rapid development, is examining the future educational requirements there. Factors being considered include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. The examination will be completed shortly.

It is the same story.