Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions (2)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

2. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of additional school places for Swords, County Dublin, in view of demand and the growing population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42730/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Education)

The population of Swords is almost 45,000 and growing. The town is a great place to live, with a fantastic community, but it is under pressure with respect to school places. I and others in the constituency have raised this issue with the Minister previously, so he is not unfamiliar with it. We have also sought a meeting with him to discuss the matter and I will press the Minister for such a meeting because he needs to hear from the parents. Of particular concern is the waiting list for the Holy Family school. The Minister will be aware of that issue from correspondence and exchanges in the House.

I thank the Deputy who I appreciate has been in direct contact with me, as have colleagues in the constituency, Senator James Reilly and Deputy Alan Farrell, regarding the pressures and demographics in the area. As the Deputy will be aware, in 2018 the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the four years from 2019 to 2022, including two new primary schools to be established in the Swords school planning area. The first of these is a new eight-classroom primary school to be established in 2019 to serve the Swords south school planning area. This school, River Valley community national school, opened in September in interim accommodation. The second is a new eight-classroom primary school to serve the Swords north school planning area. The opening of this school, Broadmeadow community national school, has been deferred until September 2020. In addition, Swords community college, a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school, was established in the Swords school planning area in 2018.

The requirement for new schools will be kept under ongoing review and will have particular regard for the increased roll-out of housing provision, as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. My Department is in regular contact with local authorities in this regard, including Fingal County Council in conjunction with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in terms of recording and enumerating the level of increased potential demand.

I advise the Deputy that the current status of large-scale projects being delivered under Project Ireland 2040 may be viewed on my Department's website, www.education.ie, and this information is updated regularly. The capital programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms, if required, for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified or an additional teacher has been appointed. Details of schools listed on this programme can be found on my Department's websiteand this information is also updated regularly.

Will the Minister meet parents in the area who are at their wits' end? If not, will he give his reasons for not doing so? I and other Deputies in the constituency signed a letter requesting that the Minister meet directly with the parents. These parents want their children to be able to go to school close to where they live, as we all do.

A temporary school will be built on Main Street in Swords to replace a temporary school currently housed in the Riasc Centre. That is not acceptable. The parents have questions they want to put directly to the Minister. I will put them now. Can the Minister confirm that the school will be built as part of phase 1 of the development of Fosterstown, rather than being left to the end, as has been done with other schools? When will the temporary school on Main Street in Swords be ready? Will the Minister meet the parents who want to put their concerns to him directly?

My Department was awaiting final grant of planning permission for the site of the temporary school at 85-87 Main Street Swords and it issued on 27 August 2019. A commencement notice was submitted to Fingal County Council on Friday, 11 October, and it is envisaged that works will commence on site at the end of October. Once works are complete and the building control regulations certification is validated, the school can then move in. My Department will continue to liaise with the school authorities in that regard.

The proposed acquisition of an identified site to accommodate River Valley community national school in the Swords south area is currently being progressed by Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board with the assistance of the Department of Education and Skills. Due to commercial sensitivities, it is not possible at this time to confirm the proposed location for the school. However, I can confirm that the identified site is appropriately located to meet the needs of the community it is intended to serve.

In response to the Deputy's question about meeting the parents concerned, I am inundated with requests to meet parents from every parish around the country. I can organise a meeting between the Deputies and the relevant officials if further clarification is needed.

When will the premises at 85-87 Main Street in Swords be ready? Parents were told it would be a matter of weeks and it now appears it will be a matter of months. There is another temporary arrangement in operation now and the site on Main Street will not be the permanent location of the school either. This is unfair on the parents. The population of Swords is growing. All people see are houses going up all around them. While that is to be welcomed because we need houses, there is nowhere for children to go to school. All the parents want is for their children to be able to go to school locally. I welcome the Minister's statement that we can meet officials. Will he ensure planners from his Department are also present at the meeting in order that we can have a discussion with them? The parents believe they have been forgotten and their children do not matter. They are being moved from Billy to Jack. The children are now being taught in a temporary location and parents still have no idea when their children will be able to move into the other temporary site on Main Street in Swords, much less a permanent school site. Many of the children will be finished school by the time this matter has been resolved. The parents need to know some firm dates.

I understand the sense of urgency and the frustration on the part of the parents who want clarification on the timeframe. The commencement notice was submitted to Fingal County Council on Friday, 11 October and it is envisaged that works will commence on the site at the end of October. Through regular contact with my officials, I will ensure that we prioritise this project and make it happen as soon as possible.