I am delighted to welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber.
I want to make the case for the provision of a secondary school in Claregalway which is urgently needed. There are constant traffic problems in the area, as well as problems with sewerage. The population of the area has grown enormously in recent years and one of the problems is that there is no secondary school in the locality. I believe there are more than 1,100 primary school pupils within a short radius of the town and that if one moves out a little further there are up to 1,800 primary school pupils. There is a clear view among local people and politicians across the political divide of the need for a secondary school and the issue has been placed before the Minister for Education and Skills.
Much work has been done by local people to provide a framework for such a school. Unfortunately, many local people have to travel up to 20 miles or 30 miles a day to bring their children to school and the time taken to travel presents a problem. This has a big impact on schools in Galway city approximately eight miles away, Tuam and Oranmore, on which it is placing a huge burden. It is no secret that at one stage Galway was the fastest growing city in Europe and the growth level is still huge. Claregalway is a small outlying town, but when I say "small," it is expanding rapidly.
There is a clear need for a secondary school. The town ticks all of the right boxes with regard to transport, etc. The issue of patronage has been largely resolved locally. From a political point of view, it is imperative that the project proceed urgently because a crisis is developing in school accommodation throughout the county. Existing secondary schools are growing to such a size that they will find it difficult to cope. In certain schools in Galway city, for example, children are not being taught in classrooms but in corridors because the schools in question are being forced to expand to meet demand.
The solution is to provide a secondary school in a central location which pupils could attend without having to travel huge distances. I would like to see the support structures for such a school being put in place to encourage people to avail of sustainable transport methods in order that children from the area could walk or travel to school by school bus or bicycle. A bus lane was created nearby recently. If this could be done, it would have a number of positive effects. It would cater for the needs of the community, particularly local children. It would also sort out the many transport problems in the area, provide a good community hub and a focal point for the expanding community in Claregalway. It would have benefits for the wider region, including a positive impact on traffic volumes in Galway city.
There is much to be said in making the case for the provision of a secondary school and very little to be said against it. I, therefore, ask the Minister of State to make it an urgent priority on the list of schools receiving attention in the Department of Education and Skills.