Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (424, 425, 426)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

424. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education further to the decision by her Department to relocate a school (details supplied), if the existing site from which the school operates is suitable for additional temporary accommodation in order to leave the school in the same location and avoid the obvious and unnecessary upheaval; if this has been examined as a viable proposal to minimise disruption to the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6727/21]

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Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

425. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if the proposed 600 pupil school (details supplied) has been redesignated as a 1,000 pupil school; if so, the way in which the decision was reached; if meetings have taken place with persons on this increase in pupil capacity; if additional contractual obligations have been added to the previous patronage contract for 600 pupils; if so, the details of the additional obligations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6728/21]

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Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

426. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education if an assessment has been undertaken in relation to the mental health impact on students currently attending a school (details supplied) in advance of a decision by her Department to relocate the school for a third-time in as many years; if not, if there are plans to undertake studies in advance of the move; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6732/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 424 to 426, inclusive, together.

The interim move of Drogheda Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) from its existing temporary location to the Louth Meath Education Training Board (LMETB) owned site at Rathmullen Road, Drogheda (same location as St. Oliver’s Community College), is to facilitate Drogheda ETSS ultimately growing to a 1,000-pupil school upon the delivery of its new school building on a permanent site. This is important in the context of addressing the need for additional post-primary school places in Drogheda and Laytown School planning areas for the next 3 years including September 2021.

While the school was originally announced as a new 600 pupil regional solution for the Laytown & Drogheda school planning areas, it was indicated at the time that new school sizes would be responsive to patronage or demographic demand. Projections at the time indicated likely additional school place requirements and, following a patronage competition, Drogheda ETSS was established as a new 600 pupil (expandable to 1,000 pupil) school. Refreshed demographic data indicates that demand in both of these school planning areas supports the school growing to 1,000 pupil.

The level of interim accommodation to be provided on the St. Olivers Community School site will be in excess of 6,800m² and will consist of 13 general classrooms, 14 specialist rooms, 2 special classes, pastoral rooms and other ancillary accommodation. Providing enhanced facilities for Drogheda ETSS and the capacity to cater for increased enrolments over the next 3 years, including for September 2021, are particularly important aspects of the project.

The existing temporary Drogheda ETSS site is too small to facilitate the proposed accommodation and St. Olivers Community College site is the only LMETB owned site in the vicinity that has capacity. The school will remain on the ETB-owned site until its new permanent school building is provided. LMETB has agreed to deliver the project and a planning application will be submitted as quickly as possible.

In relation to a permanent site for Drogheda ETSS, the Department has undertaken and continues to undertake a site identification process in respect of suitable sites in the South Drogheda area. To date it has proven challenging to identify suitable available sites in the area. Currently, the Department is undertaking an assessment of two potential sites. Due to commercial sensitivities it is not possible to provide further information at this stage.

The Department envisages that the new permanent school will be provided under a Design & Build contract and has procurement frameworks in place to deliver this as quickly as possible. A typical construction period for a 1,000 pupil school is 18 months. However, the identification and acquisition of a permanent site and the associated design and planning permission processes are key first steps in facilitating construction of the new permanent school building.

My Department’s Wellbeing Policy and Framework for practice has given recognition to the importance of promoting wellbeing in education. It outlines a comprehensive, whole-school approach to the promotion of wellbeing and positive mental health. It focuses on the whole school community, as well as groups and individual young people with identified needs.