Schools Building Projects.

I thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, for the opportunity to raise this issue — the need for the Minister for Education and Science to outline the progress which has been made in acquiring a site for Scoil na Camoige in Clondalkin, Dublin; to outline plans for the development of a new gaelscoileanna site in Clondalkin; to clarify if funding has been granted; and to outline how the project will be developed and the timeframe for the three schools involved.

I acknowledge that the creation of a gaelscoileanna complex is an exciting development for Clondalkin and the wider community. It will provide a unique facility and I welcome the planned development. However, I am concerned about the delays in progressing this project and in its funding. The recently published list by the Department of Education and Science for school building projects did not mention Gaelscoil na Camoige. In advance of last year's general election, unequivocal promises were given by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats about this school. The students and teachers at this gaelscoil have just completed another winter housed in prefabs without receiving any concrete details of a new school building materialising. This has been a crushing blow for the 220 children and 16 staff members who are forced to work in these poorly ventilated, damp and dangerous structures with no end in sight.

The staff and parents are to be congratulated on their fund-raising efforts which have managed to keep the school going and repair the prefabs. However, it is not their responsibility to ensure that children are provided with adequate accommodation and equipment. The school has been housed in prefabs since 1993. The Celtic tiger was nowhere to be seen for this school community.

I wish to ask the Minister of State a number of questions. How long will it take to deliver this project? Has financing for the project been agreed? If so, could the Minister of State provide a breakdown of the financing? What stage is the planning for this site at currently? Who will be involved in the planning and development of the project? I bring to the attention of the Minister and the departmental officials the fact that three schools are involved in this site. It is extremely important that representatives of all three schools are involved in planning for the project owing to its complexity and the different needs of each school. If there is interaction and co-operation between the representatives of the three schools, it will ensure that the best plan can be worked out for this new complex.

The Minister and the Department should ensure that this new gaelscoileanna site is developed in a creative manner, including the provision of art, sport and cultural facilities. This is potentially an exciting venture and provides many positive opportunities for Clondalkin and west Dublin generally. I hope the Minister of State will confirm that the Government is delivering on its pre-election promise to the people of Dublin mid-west. The Minister should take steps to ensure that the project is brought forward as a matter of urgency and that it receives priority status.

On behalf of my colleague the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Mary Hanafin, I thank the Senator for raising this matter. It provides me with an opportunity to outline to the House the position concerning the Department's plans to provide for the infrastructural needs of the three all-Irish schools in Clondalkin, including Gaelscoil na Camoige.

The three schools in question are Gaelscoil na Camoige and Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcain, which are both primary schools, and Coláiste Chillian, which is a post-primary school. Both Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcain agus Coláiste Chillian currently occupy the same VEC-owned site in Clondalkin. Gaelscoil na Camoige occupies rented accommodation in the locale.

The Department is committed to providing permanent accommodation for Gaelscoil na Camoige and, with the assistance of the OPW, has made strenuous attempts in the recent past to acquire a suitable site to enable this, but none was available. The Department then sought the assistance of the County of Dublin VEC to arrive at a solution. An earlier VEC proposal was rejected by the school authority, but a second proposal is now being progressed. This involves the provision of permanent accommodation for the school on the Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcain-Coláiste Chillian site.

Gaelscoil na Camoige has a current enrolment of 225 pupils. Its staffing comprises a principal and eight classroom assistants. The school also has two special education teachers. Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcain currently has 279 pupils and a staffing complement of a principal and 11 classroom assistants. Three special education teachers are also employed.

It is intended that the schools will re-organise to form a junior and a senior school. Each will be provided with permanent accommodation for 16 mainstream classroom assistants to underpin this reorganisation and to cater for the long-term needs of the area. The current enrolment for Coláiste Chillian is 387 students. Its accommodation is being increased to provide for 680 students to cater for the knock-on effect of the expansion of provision at primary level. Once all accommodation is provided, Clondalkin will then have a significant all-Irish campus in its midst.

The Department asked the VEC to carry out a masterplan of the site to ascertain if it could facilitate these plans, and this has been done. The plan is currently being examined in the Department. Assuming acceptance of the masterplan, the next step in the process is for the appointment of a design team to commence architectural planning.

All applications for large-scale capital funding, including the one in question, are assessed against published prioritisation criteria, and are assigned a band rating. Projects are selected for inclusion in a capital programme consistent with that band rating. The band rating attaching to this project is band 1.4, which is a high band rating. While it is not possible at this juncture to say when the Department will be in position to approve this project to proceed further, consideration will be given to this on an ongoing basis in the context of competing priorities from higher band rated projects and the funding available.

I again thank Senator Fitzgerald for raising this matter. Over the lifetime of the current national development plan, the Government is providing funding of €4.5 billion for school buildings. This will be the largest investment programme in schools in the history of the State. It will enable the Department to ensure that school places are available where they are needed and that the upgrading and expansion of existing facilities can continue.

While I thank the Minister of State for his reply, I am disappointed there is no clear information on the timeframe for the receipt of funding for this school. Is the Minister of State in a position to provide more detailed information, which is lacking in the reply and which effectively only states what we know and what is already in the public arena? We need to know, however, when the examination of the masterplan in the Department will it be completed. It currently has a high band rating of 1.4, but does that mean one, two or three years? What is the current timeframe for granting money to schools in the 1.4 band rating? On average, how long must such schools wait before they receive funding? That is the kind of data we need to receive on the Adjournment so that we can get some sense of when the project will be delivered.

If the Minister of State is not in a position to provide that information today, perhaps he can convey my concerns to the Department. He could ask the departmental officials to contact me with more detailed information on the project. This reply is unsatisfactory, given the promises that have been made on providing funding for this school, which is meant to be a high priority.

I will bring the Senator's questions to the attention of the Department and will ask the officials to contact her in due course.

I thank the Minister of State.