I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I agree with him that it is important to make the information available because a great deal of work is taking place behind the scenes. A special unit has been set up in Tullamore and it is working on this each day, so I am happy to update the House on this important matter.
The Deputy will be aware that, last October and November, my Department carried out initial investigations into 42 schools that were built by the company to which he refers. He will also be aware that, of those schools, 22 required precautionary measures to enable continued safe occupation. The safety of pupils and staff has been and remains our first priority.
Following the initial investigations, which were based on sample opening up works, my Department initiated on 18 January last a second phase of detailed investigations for the schools. This next phase of the programme is focusing initially on the 22 schools that have precautionary measures in place and Ardgillan community college, Balbriggan, part of which remains closed. The purpose of these investigations is to determine the type and extent of structural issues in each school and, from the technical information gathered by the appointed structural engineers, to design permanent remediation solutions where these are needed. In line with the update published in January, detailed structural investigations have been completed in 19 of the 22 schools with precautionary measures in place and in Ardgillan community college. The investigations into the remaining three schools with precautionary measures in place will be completed by the middle of May.
In the meantime, significant work has been undertaken by my Department, supported by the National Development Finance Agency and an appointed multidisciplinary team, to design and plan permanent engineered remediation solutions for each of the 22 schools. An individual work plan for each school will flow from this body of work. These plans will feed into an overall timetabled programme of remediation works for the schools which will commence during the summer months. All efforts remain on track to achieve this objective. When the works programme is available, the details will be first shared at meetings with the patrons and the schools involved. An overall update will also be published.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In parallel with this work during the summer months, detailed structural investigations in 17 schools built by the same contractor without precautionary measures in place will also proceed. A schedule for those detailed investigations issued to the 17 schools involved and their patrons last week. The intention is that any remediation works that may be necessary in these schools will be carried out in 2020.
I again acknowledge and thank the principals, staff, parents and pupils for their patience and co-operation as my Department works its way through this complex process.