The RAPID programme is designed to harness the opportunities and resources of the national development plan, NDP, through the frontloading and prioritisation of investment to the 45 most deprived communities in the country — 25 urban areas and 20 provincial towns. This does not involve additional funding to that being provided under the NDP. The area implementation team in Athy has submitted five proposals under the RAPID programme. The current position on each proposal is outlined as follows.
Construction of new community college in Athy, Ke-Athy-001. The proposed large-scale building project for Athy community college is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme, which is now published on my Department's website at www.education.ie. The new school project is at an early stage of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.
Home-school liaison for Scoil Mhichil Naofa primary school — St. Patrick's CBS, Ke-Athy-002. The home-school-community liaison scheme was last expanded in September 1999. This expansion included any remaining schools designated as disadvantaged that did not have a home-school-community liaison service. There are no plans at present to expand this scheme but in the event of any future expansion of the home-school-community liaison scheme, I assure the Deputy that the needs of Scoil Mhichil Naofa and St. Patrick's CBS will be fully considered.
Early start programme for Scoil Mhichil Naofa primary school, Ke-Athy-003. This proposal relates to the early start pre-school pilot project. The early start project, which was launched in 1994, is currently in place in 40 selected schools in disadvantaged areas. It is aimed at children, aged between three and four years who are considered to be most at risk of not reaching their potential. It provides young children with an educational programme that will enhance their overall development and lay a foundation for successful educational attainment in future years
The question of developing and funding particular pre-school initiatives or the extension of the early start project to additional schools will be considered by the centre for early childhood development and education. This centre was established in 2001 to co-ordinate developments in the early education sector on behalf of my Department on foot of the White Paper on Early Childhood Education, Ready to Learn. The centre will also develop targeted interventions on a pilot basis for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and children with disabilities, building on the experience of existing programmes. This RAPID proposal has been sent to the centre for their consideration in this context.
Expand Kildare youth service activity for Athy youth, Ke-Athy-012. The Athy youth project received an allocation of €70,174 in 2003 under the special projects for youth scheme. The level of support for the Athy youth project in 2004 will be considered in the context of available resources.
Application for the inclusion of Athy in the school completion programme, Ke-Athy-017. The school completion programme, SCP, which was launched in 2002, incorporates the learning experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives and assimilates the existing eight to 15 early school leaver initiative, ESLI, and the stay-in-school retention initiative at second level, SSRI. Athy community college, which is one of the schools in Athy seeking admission to SCP, is already in the SSRI. The objective of the school completion programme is to provide a range of interventions in areas of disadvantage that support the retention of young people in education. Eligible schools were selected on the basis of their retention rates from the Department's post-primary pupil database. The inclusion of further schools in the project strand of the school completion programme is under consideration at present.
In accordance with the aims of the RAPID programme, my Department has endeavoured, where possible, to frontload resources to support proposals submitted from RAPID areas, including those from Athy. My Department is currently in the process of establishing ten regional offices throughout the country. These offices, including an office in Naas which will serve counties Kildare and Wicklow, will further strengthen my Department's commitment and contribution to local and regional developments such as the RAPID initiative.