Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (243)

Jonathan O'Brien


243. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools with no on-site sports facilities. [22595/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The specific information sought by the Deputy is not readily available. However, the Deputy can be assured that my Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities for all pupils attending schools within the constraints of the available funding. I wish to advise the Deputy that the Physical Education curriculum has been designed on the basis that facilities in schools may vary. Many primary schools have a general purpose room and practically all schools have outdoor play areas which are used for teaching different aspects of the P.E. programme. A similar situation with sports halls and outdoor facilities applies at second level. In addition, many schools use adjacent local facilities, including public parks, playing fields and swimming pools.

The provision of playspace, where site conditions and circumstances allow, is one of the issues considered in the architectural design of new schools and major extensions. The level of facilities, including playspace, that can be provided in schools will therefore vary depending on the extent of classroom accommodation needed for the school. A suite of technical guidance documents is available on my Department's website (www.education.ie) to assist design teams in best practice in the design and development of projects and to encourage them to take a complete design team approach from project conception. These documents cover all aspects of the development of a building project for both internal and external works.

My Department's design guidelines for schools include guidance in the provision of P.E. Halls, general purpose rooms and outdoor hard play areas such as basketball courts. Other P.E. facilities, e.g. pitches are provided, where appropriate, and in the context of available resources, as part of the Department's school building programme. In the context of my Department's co-operation with local authorities in identifying suitable sites for schools, the location of sporting facilities is one factor taken into account in locating schools. The Deputy may be aware of my Department's role in developing shared community facilities in the Fingal County Council area, which has made facilities available to the wider community on a shared basis with the school.