Private Members' Business. - Schools Building Projects: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann, noting:

– that over 850 major primary and post primary school building projects are awaiting sanction to proceed to construction phase in the Department of Education and Science;

– the contents of a recent INTO survey of 75 primary schools in substandard conditions;

– the adverse impact which substandard classrooms have on both staff and students;

– the deliberate failure of the Minister for Education and Science to keep boards of management, parents associations, students, staff and elected representatives informed as to the current status of individual school projects;

– condemns the Government for its failure to manage the school building programme and calls for a radical overhaul of the school building unit in the Department of Education and Science to facilitate greater use of public private partnerships, a move to design and build contracts, grater input by local boards of management and increased capital provision to resolve this problem.

I propose to share my time with Deputies Clune, Tom Hayes, Finucane, Reynolds and Naughten.

The recent INTO survey found that 66% of the 75 schools listed have inadequate toilet facilities; 50% have inadequate hand washing or drying facilities; 40% do not have an adequate heating system; 43% either have no drinking water or water that is unfit to drink; 47% have rotting windows or doors; 71% have an inadequate or unsafe school yard and most do not have basic facilities such as general purpose rooms, a principal's office, staff room or a room when extra tuition can be given by learning support teachers.

Imagine a day in the life of a student in such a school. He or she turns up in the morning to find it inadequately heated. He or she may be in need of remedial attention, but is often forced to learn or avail of such additional tuition in a corridor or converted coal bunker. I suggest we forget the adversarial nature of politics and try to make progress on what is an enormous problem. I estimate that, between primary and post-primary schools, in the region of 250,000 pupils are in substandard teaching accommodation and classroom facilities. That has to have an adverse impact on the quality of education that can be imparted to them. We do not have a monopoly of wisdom as to the solutions, but all Members recognise unreservedly that this is a problem of crisis proportions. The way it is being dealt with by the Department of Education and Science is inadequate.

The Government's amendment is predictable, but disappointing. It refers to the fourfold increase in its capital allocation, which I acknowledge. The Minister for Education and Science has had unprecedented riches, but the sad reality is that he has problems of unprecedented proportions and is failing to deal with them. There is little point in saying he has increased funding fourfold if he has not made a dent in resolving the problem.

The Government amendment refers to the "vast number of projects now progressing through architectural planning and construction." If the Minister speaks with boards of management and principals who have spent hours, days and weeks trying to make contact with the school building unit in Tullamore to find out the status of their individual school project, they will tell him about the projects now progressing through architectural planning and construction. The amendment goes on to state that the Government "notes the determination of the Minister for Education and Science and the Government to continue the greatly expanded school building programme." I shall refer to this later because there is damning evidence of the Government's intended allocation for primary and post-primary school buildings in 2003 and 2004.

If progress is to be made on this issue, the type of amendment sponsored by the Government is not helpful. It does not recognise there is a problem. This side of the House is committed to assisting the Government in its dying days to put proposals in place, which we look forward to implementing when on the other side of the House. A vast array of radical proposals would enable us over a period to halve the estimated waiting time of six years between the date the Department recognises a problem in a school and is in a position some six years later to cut the tape and officially open that new school. That is an enormous problem which is consigning students from the day they arrive in post-primary school until they complete their leaving certificate six years later to substandard classroom facilities. It is probably only a matter of time in the litigious environment in which we live until some child and some parent takes the Department to court because of inadequate facilities. We would do well to sit up and take note of the shortcomings of policy in this area.

One of the reasons for tabling this Private Members' motion is that the Department gets poor value for the money it spends. To make this point I draw to the Minister's attention a particular project which happens to be in my home town. If the Department does not take note, it will end up costing the taxpayer at least £1 million extra if it does not avail of opportunities to resolve a particular problem. St. Coleman's national school caters for boys from first to sixth classes. It has been recognised by the Department as being inadequate and is, to use the Minister's infamous words in the Government amendment, one of the "projects now progressing through architectural planning and construction".

There is a unique circumstance in so far as a developer has acquired land at the rear of the existing school. He has made an offer to the school to provide free gratis a site to the Department for a new school. On one occasion it was mooted that he may even, under a public-private partnership arrangement, construct the school for the Department provided he was allowed to demolish the existing school building to gain access to the remainder of the site which he proposes to develop for commercial purposes. The Department recognises that this is a suitable site for the school, but is dragging its feet, either deliberately at the Minister's behest or because staff in the Department are overworked due to the volume of projects in hand.

Would the Deputy mind deleting the latter comment because it is not true?

No, I will not. If you were really serious about the nature of the problem, you would have made a decision on this particular project.

It would be better if the Deputy addressed the Chair.

By his inaction, the Minister will end up costing the taxpayer in the region of £1 million to build a school in Macroom. If he has to buy the site, which is now available free gratis, on the open market subsequently, he will have to pay at least that amount for a two acre site in the heart of the town. There are numerous examples throughout the length and breadth of the country where it can be argued that because of foot dragging and the inability of the Department, for whatever reason, to move swiftly on these projects it is costing the taxpayer more money.

The Fine Gael motion calls on the Government to move to design and build contracts. Any Member who has had occasion to make representations to the school building unit in Tullamore knows the long drawn out, cumbersome procedure. Every school principal, board of management and parents association is equally familiar with it. From obtaining sanction for a new school, through the Department's inspectors, to working towards the appointment of architects, going through the planning process, drawing up tender documents, inviting tenders, signing contracts and proceeding to construction the average length of time is in excess of six years.

Due to the delay with another school, Aghina national school, included in the INTO survey of 75 primary schools, the Department has undermined its viability. Sanctioned six years ago the Minister is now questioning whether it should proceed because of a declining enrolment. The reality is that had he proceeded with all due haste the school would, perhaps, now be in a position where it would be seeking an extension rather than have a question mark over its future viability. There are many schools in a similar position which are suffering declining enrolments because parents refuse to send their children to schools which are so substandard as to detrimentally affect the quality of education in the classroom. The Minister would do well to face up to the reality, recognise there is a crisis in the school building unit of his Department and take the necessary steps.

A move to design and build contracts is one step that would substantially resolve the problem. The Minister would hand over to a contractor the obligation to bring about a solution and the Department's role would merely be to set standards and conditions of contract. Given the extent of the problem, a case can also be made for considering the use of generic designs. Schools could lift one from an architect's table and apply it without all the toing and froing with the Department about specifications such as the size of windows or electrical installations. Such detail is bogging down projects, a problem which could be substantially circumvented by moving to design and build contracts.

It is also obvious that the Department of Education and Science is extremely reluctant to embrace the concept of public private partnerships. After five years in Government, the Minister mentioned just five projects which are progressing using public private partnerships. If my memory serves me correctly, three of these are in Cork – the school of music, the maritime college and—

All five are second level schools. The other two are additional, which makes seven.

There has been more progress than I thought. Public private partnership must be used to attract additional capital because the resources available to the State are clearly limited. It is a very useful way of getting projects, notably larger ones, completed quickly without an immediate or upfront cost to the State. The mindset prevailing in the Department of Education and Science obviously has a problem with embracing the concept given that after five years in Government only five post-primary schools are being built using the model.

It is also necessary to apply the simple solution of increasing capital provision. It is very interesting to note in the projected Estimates, contained in the documentation on the budget, the amount of capital the Minister proposes to allocate to primary and post-primary education in 2003 and 2004. I understand the figures were published because of the obligation under the growth and stability pact to notify the Commission of projected expenditure several years in advance.

Indicative expenditure.

Indicative or otherwise, the figures published by the Minister demonstrate that the school building programme will be decimated. The allocation for 2003 is €116 million as opposed to €184 million in 2002. The news for 2004 is even worse in both the primary and secondary sectors. If these figures are indicative of the Government's commitment to resolving the problems in primary and post-primary schools, God help the schools building programme. No better argument for voting against the Government could be advanced to the parents and teachers of children in and boards of management of substandard schools than this indication of failure.

The figure for this year was lower.

Today's questions Order Paper contains eight pages of questions to the Minister for Education and Science – more than to any other Minister – the overwhelming majority of which relate to schools building projects.

The same reply is given to all.

There is a standard reply issuing from the Department. During the discussion of the education Estimates at the meeting of the Committee on Education and Science on 4 December 2001, Deputy Shortall vigorously pursued the Minister on the question of publishing a database which would allow school principals and everyone else involved in the process to find out the exact position of their school in terms of the Department's building commitments. The Minister has steadfastly refused to publish the database, despite the undertaking he gave to the meeting when he stated: "I will prepare a list and publish it." Why has he not done so? I suspect, and it is the Minister's duty to convince the House otherwise, that he is facilitating the election bus tour of the Taoiseach to cherry pick projects in marginal constituencies for electoral benefit.

It would be a little late at that stage.

Deputy Hayes and I were in Tipperary South during a by-election campaign in which Gaelscoil Clonmel was a contentious issue. The Minister sent one of his messenger boys to a public meeting one night to deliver good news about the gaelscoil, a move which did not work then and will not work in a general election because parents, teachers and pupils are fed up to the back teeth with being led a merry dance by the Minister and with the replies he gives to parliamentary questions.

We want a transparent system that would readily identify the Department's priorities and put an end to the cherry picking of projects. This occurred only a week or ten days ago when the Taoiseach visited Scoil Charman in Wexford and plucked a new building out of the clouds, despite the Minister having informed the House a week previously that the school was not making progress. This is the reason he is reluctant to publish the database.

He has the necessary information at his fingertips. I challenge him again to publish it and to allow everyone to see where their school stands in the order of departmental priorities. Otherwise, he will continue to face a barrage of questions on the Order Paper and his non-answers, which cause frustration among boards of management and parents who have attended constituency clinics to ask that parliamentary questions be tabled, will continue. The replies given to Members to questions about specific school projects are not being answered in the detail requested. This is an abuse of Members which should be investigated. Perhaps it is of interest to the Ceann Comhairle in the context of Members' interests.

The Chair has no control over the content of answers.

We could print the answers.

What about the beef tribunal?

While I do not wish to pursue the matter further now, I understood the Ceann Comhairle has a role in this area. Perhaps my understanding of the issue is not as clear as the Ceann Comhairle's. Outside bodies, not least the beef tribunal, have commented on the failure of Departments to adequately answer questions. The Department in question in the case of the beef tribunal was the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Had the questions been answered, we would have avoided the need to establish the tribunal.

The Minister has difficulties recognising the problem. As I said, at a conservative estimate 250,000 pupils are being educated in substandard classrooms. We have innovative proposals to make greater use of public private partnerships for schools building projects. They are viable alternatives to the current system for large schools building projects. With just five projects approved for schools to date, the Department of Education and Science appears hostile to these partnerships. A move to design and build contracts would eliminate a large part of the bureaucracy which engulfs the Department's school building unit. The only role for the Department would be to establish standards and conditions.

There is also a role for greater involvement of boards of management. Through their active involvement on the ground in the progression of a school building project, they could deliver greater value for money than the Department delivers in its splendid isolation in Tullamore. Given the scale of the problem, a significant increase in the capital provision for the school building unit is necessary in the coming years, which is where this side of the House and the Minister have considerable differences. His planned expenditure for school buildings in 2003 and 2004, as contained in this year's budget projections, is for declining investment in school buildings. This is entirely unacceptable and we will fight on this issue on the highways and byways during the election campaign.

We also demand the publication of the database. My colleague, Deputy Shortall, has pursued the Minister relentlessly on this issue but he is ducking and weaving. He has given the commitment but he will not put a date on it because he wants to tour the country and cherry-pick projects for electoral advantage. Members of the public are too wise to fall for that. They did not fall for it in regard to Gaelscoil Clonmel and other primary school projects during the by-election, and they will not fall for it during a general election.

This is an important motion and I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Creed, for bringing it forward because it gives all of us an opportunity to vent the frustration we experience in our constituencies. The Order Paper is littered with questions on the state of play of various school building projects, be they primary or secondary schools, yet we get the same standard reply from the Department of Education and Science. That is frustrating for us in terms of trying to deal with the Department but it is more frustrating for the boards of management, parents and pupils in these schools.

A statement was made in one reply from the Minister that the 2002 allocation will be €153 million, four times the previous Government investment in 1997. Is the Minister comparing 1997 prices to those in 2002? Since that time we have had construction costs inflation, which has averaged at 10%, 12% or 13% on a yearly basis. More money is available and there is a high expectation of the Government to deliver on the promised school building programmes throughout the country, as outlined by Deputy Creed. Why are we still waiting on those? What is the difficulty? Is the Minister waiting for the election campaign to get under way so that wonderful announcements can be made in every constituency? As Deputy Creed pointed out, that will not work because people are wise to that. Is it the case that too many promises were made and we must wait until after the election to hear the bad news? People are sceptical in terms of the Government delivering on their school building programmes.

The INTO survey of school conditions was damning. I visited a school in my own constituency last week, Coláiste Mhuire in Crosshaven, which is awaiting a refurbishment and extension programme. To address the problem of the clapped out heating system, this year all the children were issued with special double fleece jackets, equivalent to a sailing jacket, which they put on when they sit in the classrooms to keep out the cold. That is the state of a school less than ten miles from Cork city. We are told the project is at the pre-phase 2 stage. What does that mean? We cannot work it out, but it is stuck somewhere in the bowels of the Department of Education and Science.

I ask the Minister to give careful consideration to this proposal to facilitate greater use of public private partnerships and introduce a design and build programme so that we can accelerate the school building programme. That is something very worthwhile and I am aware it has been talked about in some schools. It would certainly advance the programmes and will show people that there is some light at the end of the tunnel and that we can progress. Schools have been promised extensions since 1999, yet nothing has been done and frustration is being experienced by boards of management, parents, pupils and principals throughout the country.

I support the comments of my colleague and commend Deputy Creed for tabling this important and timely motion. The motion is more important than the Minister realises because to say there is a crisis in the school building programme is to put it mildly. This is the worst ever crisis in terms of any school building programme. This morning I drew up a list of the number of schools in my constituency which have sought additional classrooms, new buildings, etc. and I will return to that shortly.

We have heard much in this House and elsewhere about the benefits of the Celtic tiger, but everyone will agree that our education system was its foundation. We are very proud of our education system, the way it has developed and what it has achieved over the past number of years. The problem, however, is the number of sub-standard schools and it is grossly unfair to expect people to work in these schools.

I drew up a list earlier today of the 14 schools in the constituency of South Tipperary about which representations have been made to me since Christmas. I will start with Ballytarsna. A promise was made by the Minister a year and a half ago that a new school would be built in Ballytarsna, on the borders of north and south Tipperary, yet nothing has been done and a site has not even been purchased for the school. St. Michael's national school, Mullinahone, is 100 years old and badly in need of refurbishment, but nothing has happened in relation to that school. Ballyclerihan is one of the worst schools in the constituency. It is on a split site which means that half the pupils attend the local national school. They have to cross a busy road between Cashel and Clonmel which, at a time when there is an enormous amount of traffic, is a danger to them and their parents who have to collect them. Two teachers use the local hall and the other three are in the national school across the road. That is not good enough. Many more schools, such as Tankardstown, Bansha and others, have sought extra rooms.

My own former national school, Thomastown, has sought an additional classroom for many years but nothing has happened in relation to that request. The national school in Lisrona, a rapidly developing area on the outskirts of Clonmel, is in dire need of additional classrooms. Mount Bruce, outside Tipperary town, has an accommodation problem going back over the years yet nothing has been done about it. Drangan national school outside Fethard is another case in point.

In regard to the Gaelscoil outside Fethard which Deputy Creed mentioned, the people were promised that funding would be made available but I spoke to the chairman of the board of management only yesterday and he told me that a site has not been purchased despite the promises made in two by-elections. That is the greatest scandal in the entire constituency.

The list is endless and I put it to the Minister that he is neglecting the people of south Tipperary and, regardless of who stands in the next election, we will fight him mile by mile on the roads of south Tipperary to highlight the neglect of the next generation.

Over the past five years, this Government spokead nauseam about the Celtic tiger economy but if we examine the state of our public services today, one would think we had five years of the worst recession in history. Our education system has seen the brunt of this under-investment and the schools in County Roscommon are no different to those anywhere else. There is massive overcrowding. Cloakrooms are being used as classrooms, especially for the most disadvantaged, those requiring remedial and resource teaching. Many of the schools have no hot water, giving rise to public health concerns, and are without adequate heating or insulation systems. One would not put pigs in many of the toilet facilities, let alone ask pupils to use them every day of the week.

Is the Government trying to close the smaller schools by stealth, forcing parents to send children to other schools due to the 19th century facilities? As a result of the decline in numbers, many of these schools are now under pressure in relation to their viability. The Government is doing the same with regard to Garda stations. Smaller schools are feeling the brunt because the Government is ensuring they do not have even the most basic facilities.

The Minister's latest measure is to deny 20,000 children the right to remedial education due to the enforcement of a points system. Although Fianna Fáil said in its manifesto in 1997 that it would examine the third level points system to put in place a more humane system, it now wants to enforce a callous points system for the most vulnerable in the education system.

The Government, which in its dying days stands over a dilapidated and rundown system, proposes to introduce auction politics in over 850 schools which seek funding to provide basic facilities to ensure the proper education of children. Only a fraction of these substandard schools will receive funding; the rest will have to wait for over two and a half years before they will be considered by the building unit in Tullamore, which faces a crisis of resources. As Deputy Creed said, the delays in the building unit mean it takes six years to process an application. I know of a case where it took the Department of Education and Science a year and a half to decide whether to build a new primary school or to refurbish the existing school. It should not take 18 months to make such a basic decision.

A proposal in relation to Elphin community college has been on a desk in the Department for a number of years. Children have to walk half a mile in the rain to get from one section of the school to another which has been rented by the Department of Education and Science and which is in a dilapidated state. The money would be better spent on redeveloping the existing school to ensure it is based in a single campus rather than spread all over the town. I wholeheartedly endorse the proposals to radically overhaul the Department's building unit and to ensure greater use of public private partnership so that these matters can be expedited. Schools need to be quickly approved for funding so children can be educated in facilities of a decent standard.

In the dying weeks of the Government, as the Minister for Education and Science reflects on the past five years, he will note serious deficiencies in the provision of primary education. The Irish National Teachers' Organisation's list of schools in critical need of development contains two schools in my constituency, in Pallaskenry and Kilfinnane, and I could list many other schools in County Limerick in a state of disrepair. When we talk about Dáil reform, it is regrettable that we do not address the lack of honesty in answers to parliamentary questions. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a Deputy is the answers we are given to questions about schools. When we attend the Adjournment debate to articulate the concerns of schools, pupils and teachers, we are given an exercise in obfuscation, so that Opposition Members will not be able to relay any snippet of worthwhile information.

I have no doubt that a few announcements in relation to primary schools in marginal constituencies like Limerick West will be made as the election approaches, as Deputy Creed has said. Having said that, it is probable that if it is announced that something will happen, it will be too late for many people. Fine Gael hopes to be in office to oversee the implementation of the Minister's announcements, which have been very few. The quality of our primary schools is an indictment of the Minister. I am not impressed, especially as he was quite efficient when he was responsible for social welfare and he replied to Members' questions on areas of concern. As Deputy Creed said, many questions are asked about education at present, which is symptomatic of the frustration of Members.

When I see the Minister, Deputy Woods, sitting alone on the Government benches for the entire evening, I wonder about the level of concern among Government Members as regards education. I am sure they must be concerned about schools in their constituencies, but do they articulate their concerns to the Minister? The Minister has washed his hands of the crisis in primary education. I look forward to when my party is in Government and there is a new Minister for Education and Science, with a dynamic approach to seriously addressing the situation at primary level.

I could talk at length about the problems at second level and the crisis in our secondary schools, where teachers are frustrated. The Minister is a cause of much of the malaise in education circles at present, as he has procrastinated and obfuscated. I compliment Deputy Creed for putting down this motion, which is an indictment of the Minister, Deputy Woods, as many Members welcome the chance to articulate their frustrations.

It is a pleasure to speak on this motion and I compliment Deputy Creed on his foresight in bringing it before the house. The building unit of the Department of Education and Science is a shambles, as a result of the Minister who has presided over it. The most cynical decision he made was to hold back the information necessary to make public the priority list of school building projects within his Department. The political expediency he has tried to pursue for electoral advantage is horrendous. It is scandalous that he has allowed teachers and pupils to spend their days in substandard facilities for political advantage and I am horrified that the Taoiseach shares such cynicism. The Government's policy is to survey schools – 850 have already been examined – but not to provide funding for improvements. Who do the Taoiseach and the Minister think they are representing? The people will not fall for the cynicism and political expediency of waiting to cherry-pick schools in marginal constituencies. I say that as one who represents the marginal constituency of Sligo-Leitrim.

I hope the Minister will soon announce the commencement of building works for new post-primary schools in Ballinamore and Mohill. The approval of the new schools was announced to great fanfare, but nothing has happened yet. The new primary school in Mohill, which will be an amalgamation of two schools, is badly needed as the existing school is in as bad a condition as its secondary equivalent. Representatives of the school met the Minister and officials from his Department, only to be told that money will only be given when £25,000 has been collected in Mohill and a site found. Nothing has happened. I would be horrified if I discovered the Minister is taking the people of Mohill for fools.

There are also problems in schools in County Sligo, including Calry national school. A Fianna Fáil candidate in the next general election is a resident of the parish of Calry, so I hope money will be provided for the school there. What about Carbury national school, in the middle of Sligo town, which has been looking for funding for many years but has not received it? It is outrageous that these schools have not been improved, just as it is outrageous that the Minister for Education and Science will not publicise his Department's priority list. It will be even more outrageous if the Minister cherry-picks schools to gain political advantage. The Ursuline College in Sligo, which has almost 600 pupils, has received planning permission and a fire certificate for four special classrooms, four ordinary classrooms and a sports hall. Representatives of the school met architects and the building unit of the Department and were told that money was available, but the Minister has not yet said that construction can proceed. It is terrible, in 2002, that students have horrendous physical education facilities. They have to tog out in substandard conditions on terrible days like today.

The Minister has presided over a shambles in the building unit of his Department, but the most cynical exercise which I abhor is the holding back of announcements for political advantage. I assure the Minister that Fianna Fáil will not retain its two seats in the constituency even when the announcements are made.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "noting:" and substitute the following:

– the Government's commitment towards improving school accommodation as demonstrated by the fourfold increase in funding since coming to office;

– the dramatic expansion of the school building and refurbishment programme at primary and secondary level;

– the vast number of projects now progressing through architectural planning and construction;

– the commencement of work on five major school building projects under the public private partnership and the preparation of further PPPs;

– the measures already taken and the further measures planned to devolve responsibility to schools to deal directly with more of their own building projects; commends the Government for the many improvements in school accommodation already carried out and notes the determination of the Minister for Education and Science and the Government to continue the greatly expanded school building programme in order to both meet new and emerging needs and to eliminate any substandard accommodation which has accumulated because of generations of under-investment.

In asking the House to endorse the Government's record achievements in investing in school buildings, I want to dispel the myths being peddled by the Opposition that, in some way, that programme of investment has come to a halt. I want to expose for what it is the ludicrous proposition that this Government, a Government which every year has increased spending on school building, would, for some reason, back away from its resolve to tackle once and for all the deficiencies in school infrastructure. Let me make it clear from the outset that we are doing what others failed to do in the past.

I want to set out from where we have come, where we are and where we are going regarding the entire school building programme. Let me be unequivocal – as a result of past under-investment over the course of decades, the reality is that many schools are in a poor state of repair and require substantial funding for upgrading to meet modern requirements. Many of the schools built in the 1970s and 1980s in particular were low-cost, high-maintenance buildings that are now at the end of their natural lives and will have to be rebuilt over the coming years.

Contrary to the simplistic views being peddled by the Opposition, it is not possible to wipe out in the lifetime of one Government the cumulative deficit of generations and to deal with emerging needs at the same time. The audacity of the Opposition in seeking to turn this issue into a political football is incredible given that it is only in the lifetime of this Government that there has been an increase in the level of investment which is capable of making a real difference.

There is no hiding from the facts which show the sea change we have brought about since 1997 and demonstrate clearly and unambiguously our sustained commitment to rectifying the deficit and to provide for new building needs. It is revealing to look at where we were when the parties opposite were last in Government and what has happened since. The last Government when leaving office planned to spend a paltry €91.6 million on educational infrastructure. By contrast, every year since the Government took office, we have poured massive sums of money into modernising educational infrastructure. It may be painful for the Opposition to listen to this. It is said that the truth often hurts, but so be it.

I will now outline to the House the undeniable facts. In 1998, we spent €133.2 million on first and second level educational infrastructure, an increase of 45% on the spending the previous Government provided in 1997. In 1999, we again increased educational infrastructural spending by up to €194 million, an increase of 113% on the Opposition's 1997 allocation. In 2000, yet again this Government was not found wanting. Educational infrastructural spending at first and second level was again increased, this time to €257.5 million, or 181% of the Opposition's allocation in 1997. Last year we again increased spending to €317.68 million, or 246% of the Opposition's allocation in 1997.

When we come to the current year, we are looking at proposed spending of €337.6 million, an increase of 370%, or, to put it fully into context, almost four times more than that allocated by the parties opposite when they left Government a scant five years ago. Despite our undeniable track record, the parties opposite want to play cheap politics and create an impression that the Government has been inactive or has mismanaged the building programme.

Let me dispel another myth promoted by the Opposition in an effort to cause confusion among the public. The Opposition fully expected the capital allocation for 2002 to be less than that for 2001. This was before the final Estimates for 2002 for my Department were agreed. In the event, the final 2002 allocation of €337.6 million for primary and post-primary schools is over 33% greater than the multi-annual projection prior to the commencement of the Estimate and budget processes. Here again the Government has shown its deep commitment to our school building programme.

There is no escaping the reality that, since coming into office in 1997, we have placed the highest priority on the improvement of school buildings and have consistently and substantially increased capital provision throughout the education sector. In effect, since 1998 until the end of the current year, we will have spent more than €1.2 billion on educational infrastructure. In summary, in five years we have spent more than 13.5 times the capital allocated by those opposite for their last year in Government.

What has this level of funding achieved? Again some comparisons demonstrate what we have delivered and achieved compared to what we inherited. For instance, in 1997 only 30 primary school projects were under way. In contrast, there are currently 84 primary school projects either in construction or at the tender phase with construction about to commence. At second level in 1997 only 12 projects valued over €635,000 were sanctioned compared with a record 125 such projects in 2001 – ten times more than the previous Government sanctioned.

Those primary school projects were major projects. Our achievements when all other grants are included are even more impressive. Last year I approved more than 1,350 capital grants for primary schools compared to 750 in 2000. The figure for 1997 was 420. The value of the grants approved by me in 2001 was €126 million compared to €57.5 million in the previous year. A total of 31 grants approved by me in 2001 exceeded €1 million. I could go on, but let the House note that the record shows the quantum leap in funding and construction that has occurred during this Government's period in office.

Where are the Government's backbenchers?

It leaves anything done by some of the parties opposite when last in office in the halfpenny place.

I wish to address the current phase of our multi-annual programme which is designed to deal comprehensively with the needs of first and second level schools. The mere fact that the parties opposite accept and refer to the figure of 850 major school building projects is a tacit admission of the enormous progress the Government has made, and continues to make, towards improving the physical infrastructure of all primary and post-primary schools. However, the Deputies opposite have demonstrated their profound ignorance of the whole area of capital funding for schools in the very terms they so frequently use when referring to the building programme.

Let me simplify the matter for them and put on the record of the House that there are not 850 major primary and post-primary school building projects awaiting sanction to proceed to construction. This figure refers to the number of projects currently undergoing architectural planning, the vast majority of which are not yet ready to proceed to construction and will not be ready to do so for some time yet.

That is because the Minister is deliberately slowing them down.

I am not. The Deputies opposite had 40 minutes so, through the Chair, I should be allowed to speak. Let me also make clear that I have not instructed my Department to stop the processing of these projects as stated by Deputy Noonan during leaders' questions on 7 February.

That is not what they are saying in Tullamore.

Architectural planning is under way and projects will continue to tender and construction as soon as possible under the expanded building programme. The notion, even if it were practical to do so, that one could somehow simultaneously release 850 major building projects into the construction market, with the consequent value for money implications due to inevitable tender inflation, is at best simplistic, if not daft. It demonstrates abysmal ignorance of construction market economics and, at worst, it is downright dishonest.

Now, let me tackle head on the simplistic notion that there is some way of having all projects in a large scale programme move forward in tandem for instant simultaneous delivery. Despite attempts by the Opposition to simplify the issue, the process leading up to the provision of any major construction project on site can be quite complex. The starting date for construction on any major school building project depends on factors such as the size of the project, the time required to undertake architectural planning, land acquisition, as necessary, sorting out title, the period of time required for the granting of planning permission and obtaining a fire certificate, the outcome of the tender competition and the procurement, where relevant, of bonds, insurance and tax clearance by prospective contractors. The funding profile for the project must then be assimilated into the aggregate funding profile for the programme in general and the actual funding provided on a year by year basis through voted expenditure.

I will deal now with the procedures and systems employed by the planning and building unit of my Department to ensure that all projects proceed within the shortest time span possible. I find it shameful that the Deputies opposite, in the motion they have placed before this House, have attempted to malign the reputation of Department officials by calling for a radical overhaul of the building unit of my Department. In seeking to attack the performance of my officials they are ignoring the enormous increase in throughput of the unit, borne out by the facts and consequent increases in productivity in recent years.

How low will the Minister go?

Among the efficiency measures achieved in 2001 was the introduction of new streamlined procedures for processing applications for grant aid for minor primary school building projects involving the provision of additional temporary accommodation and the upgrading or replacement of windows, roofs, mechanical and electrical systems and external areas. These streamlined procedures were introduced with the objective of devolving responsibility to the school management authorities to the greatest extent possible, consistent with achieving value for money and allowing the primary responsibility for administration and compliance to rest with each board of management. Since the introduction of these revised procedures, my Department has received very positive feedback from schools that have used this streamlined process. These schools have recognised the benefit of very significant reductions in the time frame from the date of their initial application to the date for undertaking improvement works.

The introduction of these streamlined pro cedures has enabled my Department to sanction grant aid for a massive 1,350 minor primary school building projects, an increase of 600 from the previous year. Importantly, this is in addition to the devolved grant given to all schools on an annual basis for minor improvement works. My Department has already started to build on the success of these streamlined procedures in 2002 through a further devolution of authority and control of capital projects at primary schools. I have recently held discussions with my staff with a view to introducing further major developments in this regard. My officials are currently working on the details of how this scheme will operate, including those relating to value for money and accountability for public funds, to ensure a smooth implementation of this new scheme. I expect to be in a position to make a further announcement on this shortly.

The focus of my Department's planning and building unit will increasingly be on ensuring quality, best practice and value for money through an evaluation and audit approach rather than a detailed involvement in individual projects. This will enable my Department to fulfil a more strategic, policy-oriented role in relation to school buildings. This changed role is facilitated by measures aimed at empowering schools in relation to direct control of minor projects and the greater use of external design teams and by supporting school authorities in their role as client on major projects. I appreciate what Deputy Creed said in this regard and I hope he will understand that I have been very busy trying to achieve all this and that I hope to be in a position to make an announcement about it shortly. When this sort of change is undertaken many things must be sorted out, both by the officials and by the Secretary General.

In 2001, my Department's planning and building unit initiated the EU tender process for a pilot project involving organising and undertaking a comprehensive inventory of accommodation, including the production of site and building survey drawings and general building condition reports. The pilot project encompasses 115 primary and post-primary schools in County Kildare and the resulting information will be compiled on a geographic information system database. It is envisaged that this inventory of school accommodation will be used for the long-term planning of capital provision, to enable priorities for capital provision to be identified, to enable the Department to identify schools with spare accommodation, for long-term planning for the provision of schools in any particular location and as an information resource for the public.

The EU tender process for this project has been completed. The successful surveying teams commenced work in January 2002 and over the coming months each school in the pilot area will be visited by suitably qualified personnel who will assess and report on site conditions, space norms within the schools and the overall condition of each school. Ultimately, all the data accumulated will be stored electronically on the GIS database and will be available for reference. My Department is currently making the necessary prep arations for the use of Internet technology and for the publication of regular bulletins through which school communities, Members of the Oireachtas and others will be readily able to access up-to-date information on the status and progress of each building project. More general information, including details of the entire capital programme, will be available to the general public.

PPPs are already being used to advance projects. In addition to our impressive programme of development, we have already taken the initiative in introducing public private partnerships to supplement our unprecedented schools building programme. In November 2001 I signed the contract for the first ever educational sector PPP project involving five second-level schools, catering for almost 3,500 pupils, at a cost of €81.5 million. This money is in addition to the allocations in the Estimates. The Opposition does not need to suggest that we should move to a PPP approach or a design and build approach. The reality is that we have led the way. We have already delivered a school PPP bundle in a faster time than in other jurisdictions. This was an historic, ground-breaking pilot project. It gave massive new state of the art second level schools to Tubbercurry, with 675 pupils, Ballincollig, with 1,000, Clones, with 500, Dunmanway, with 700, and Shannon, with 600 pupils. We are now preparing the plans to invite tenders for further PPPs for primary and second level schools and to help meet the demand for state of the art PE halls.

The programme has worked very well. The Department of Finance was impressed with it and it is fully behind our expansion of the programme. Many things had to be worked out during this pilot phase and quite a few builders decided not enter until they had seen how the pilot would go. It went well and now there are many people with an interest in the projects. These projects will contribute to better use of school buildings outside of school hours for adult and community use and for lifelong learning and will take away from school principals the burden of administration with regard to buildings, allowing them to concentrate on their core educational functions.

Another major innovation in which we are currently involved is completion of a comprehensive plan for a single PPP to encompass all primary and second level schools in the Portlaoise area. This will involve new, state of the art buildings and widespread refurbishment. It is a new approach to take the whole of the Portlaoise area and deal with all the schools in it and everything that is needed. The movement of population, which is currently a problem there, will also be taken into account. Everything will be dealt with in one PPP. This is the first time ever that such a major integrated school building programme has been undertaken for any town or city in Ireland. The facilitation process for a second town, New Ross, has already begun. Facilitation means that people must come together, agree to work together and decide what the long-term plan should be for schools in the area.

On the INTO list often referred to by the Opposition and in media comment, what I have to say is not intended to avoid the reality that some schools have substandard and inadequate accommodation. The scale of funding and the programme we are delivering is the most clear cut way of acknowledging what was neglected for years, namely, that there is much work to be done now and into the future. It is important that we are all clear on what exactly is involved and that all claims are grounded in fact and related to need. While I do not doubt the sincerity of the INTO, the criteria it uses in determining which schools are substandard are unclear and seem to have been applied in a very arbitrary fashion. It is not clear, from the information supplied by the INTO, who compiles the reports and the level of technical input, if any, involved in the assessments.

Many of the specific issues raised by the INTO, such as hand washing and drying facilities, heating, replacement of windows and doors and water supply, should in these days be resolved through the devolved capital grant for primary schools. All primary schools now receive an annual capital grant which I increased this year to €3,809 per school plus €12.70 per pupil at a cost in excess of €17.7 million per annum. This grant empowers schools to deal directly with such problems without any need to get approval from my Department. The vast majority of schools now deal with these minor works themselves and do so very effectively.

The INTO and some elements in the media regularly refer to "rat or mice infested primary schools". Rodent problems, as they would in any domestic, industrial or commercial setting, are more likely to arise if pest control policies are inadequate. The most structurally sound buildings can suffer rodent infestation, for example, through drains and sewers. It does not follow that rodent infestation, where it exists, requires the construction of a new building or that dealing with such a problem must await the construction of a new building. It may be colourful and headline grabbing to make such references but responsibility for dealing with such problems resides with local school managements and we provide them with annual funding on which they have total discretion. The vast majority of the schools listed by the INTO are relatively small buildings and, therefore, amenable to considerable improvement with the funds made available to them.

My Department has serious concerns about the effectiveness of the devolved grant from a value for money point of view in these cases and has consequently decided to undertake a detailed expenditure review to determine exactly how these funds are being spent, particularly in the schools which appear to be unable to tackle these minor works themselves.

My Department cannot accept the argument being advanced by the INTO that schools which do not adhere to the current Department of Education and Science planning guidelines are necessarily substandard. These guidelines were drawn up and adopted in January 2000 for the use of architectural design teams where new schools or extensions to existing schools are being planned for the future. My Department is setting new and higher standards and targets as part of a best practice agenda for school design and this will be implemented in all future works throughout the country. Based on these criteria, the INTO recently published a list of 73 schools which they regard as having substandard accommodation. Regular updates are received from the INTO, adding some schools and deleting others from the list. The planning and building unit has also initiated a series of regular meetings with the INTO to ensure that we have better information about priority projects.

My Department's records show that, since 1996, over 165 schools have been highlighted by the INTO. Many of these schools have received substantial funding to carry out refurbishment work and to purchase temporary accommodation. Many other schools brought to my Department's attention by the INTO are among the primary school projects currently progressing through architectural planning. The Department must also fund the building of many new schools in developing areas where none exist and deal with the provision of new special education facilities.

The primary school building programme must proceed on the basis of prioritising needs on a fair and rational basis and not on the basis of who shouts loudest or seeks to grab media attention. We must respond to the need for schools in rapidly developing areas, to the particular needs of schools in areas of social disadvantage, to the accommodation needs of schools catering for children with special needs and to the need for building works that facilitate development through amalgamation.

I wish to return to the details of this year's programme with a specific emphasis on primary schools. Already this year, 84 major primary school projects are under construction or due on site in a matter of weeks at an ultimate cost of €110 million. Work is proceeding on the acquisition of sites for a further 60 new primary schools. Architectural planning is continuing on over 450 major primary school building projects. Over 100 of these are at an advanced stage of the planning process at an estimated cost of €170 million. Some of them will be ready to go to tender in the coming weeks and others will be ready later in the year. They will give rise to expenditure which will naturally spread over this year and next year. Work is proceeding and will continue to proceed within my Department on all these projects consistent with the progress that is made externally by design teams and in relation to local authority planning processes and all the other factors that influence the pace of progress.

The level of capital funding in 2002 is €153.6 million for primary buildings and €184 million for post-primary schools, a total of €337.6 million. We will add to this the projects to be undertaken through public private partnerships. While this funding will be used to meet the cost of projects already on site, new projects ready to go on site and new PPPs, it clearly cannot, and it is not intended to, address this year all the problems that have been identified. That will be the continuing challenge for next year.

I am finalising for Government the details and shape of the programme as it is likely to develop through the year. It is my intention to make available to Deputies a list of school building projects currently in construction as well as major building projects in architectural planning as soon as possible, taking this year's Estimates, the budget allocation and PPPs into account. I will also announce details of projects that are ready to go to tender and others for which tenders have been received and where construction will commence in the coming months. Individual school authorities will be notified of indicative dates relevant to each stage.

The education landscape does not stand still. The building programme must change and adapt to meet emerging curricular and other needs. Over the last five years, we have extended and dramatically improved the specifications for school buildings and ancillary accommodation to meet lower pupil-teacher ratios and the needs of children with disabilities, to provide new and refurbished science laboratories and PE halls and to provide an expanded choice of subjects and 3,500 extra teachers.

The Government has invested significantly in education both in terms of human resources and programmes. The building programme has kept pace with those developments, ensuring that extra teachers are accommodated and new programmes can be delivered. We have done more on all fronts. We have surpassed anything achieved by any previous Government in the history of the State.

Ensuring schools meet the latest safety and technical standards is also essential. The removal of asbestos and the reduction of radon gas levels have been a priority. Already this week, I have announced funding for a major new programme that provides for dust extraction in specialist rooms in second level schools.

The Government is committed to addressing the historical deficit in educational infrastructure. We have allocated substantial extra funding in each of our budgets for school buildings. We have provided almost four times as much this year as the Opposition did when in Government. This level of commitment will continue into the foreseeable future. The Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, recently gave a categorical assurance about our clear commitment to continue the work we have started and to build on the substantial progress that has already been made to ensure that the needs of schools throughout the country are met. I am proud to come to the House and stand over the record of the Government on spending on school building at all levels. No one has matched the performance of the Government in meeting the needs of our schools for modern, state-of-the-art buildings and facilities.

There is still a substantial amount of work to be done, but let no one doubt the seriousness with which the Government approaches the schools building programme. We kick-started the programme from the paltry level at which it languished in 1997 when the rainbow coalition was in power to the record level of building and construction it has reached today. People can come to only one conclusion when they consider the ranting, hypocrisy and attempts the Opposition are making to create panic and undermine the sterling work of the Government's schools building programme. That conclusion is that there is a general election in the offing and they are clutching at straws.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Moynihan-Cronin, Wall and Quinn.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The image of a modern and dynamic Ireland presented by the Government rarely features footage of the conditions in which we continue to educate a great proportion of this country's children. It is difficult to believe that outdoor toilets, leaking roofs and substandard prefab classrooms remain a daily reality for pupils in both urban and rural areas. It is hard to accept that an Ireland which has been fortunate enough to enjoy the riches of the fastest growing economy in Europe allows her young to be educated in schools where there is no budget for repairing or replacing rotten windows, or for providing basic handwashing facilities. Conditions associated with early 20th century Ireland have been allowed to remain in schools up and down the country. Their persistence is a serious indictment of a Government that has shown itself to be prepared to spend the nation's surpluses on the whims of some of its Ministers rather than the real needs of our schoolchildren.

A recent INTO survey of over 1,200 primary schools found that many were overcrowded and totally inadequate in terms of basis hygiene. Exactly 50% of schools lacked facilities for pupils with special needs. Only 24% of schools are lucky enough to be able to afford a small library and more than 62% of primary schools continue from day to day without even a principal's office from which the management of the school can be conducted.

The situation at second level is equally bad. There are currently over 850 applications for major capital works being processed by the Minister's Department. Time and again in this House the Minister has persistently refused to publish the long list of projects being dealt with. The Minister gave a clear commitment to me and to the Joint Committee on Education and Science on 4 December last, when pressed on the issue of the scandalous situation regarding school buildings, that he would publish that list. I checked the records last week and found that the Minister gave that commitment twice during that meeting, under pressure from Members. He said he would publish the full list of 850 schools and the stage that each one was at. That was what the Minister was asked to do. In his reply tonight, the Minister has done what he normally does in relation to parliamentary questions. He has denied an accusation that was not made and he has replied to a question that was not asked. The Minister was asked to supply the full list of 850 schools and the stage which each one was at. The Minister gave a commitment to do that – it is on the record – and we are still waiting for it. Shortly before Christmas, I put down a written parliamentary question to the Minister asking him to provide that information. The Minister replied that his officials were collecting it and would send it to me as soon as possible.

That is still the position.

It is now two months later. The Minister had that list at the committee meeting on 4 December. Two months after the PQ, there is still no sign of that information being made available.

The point was made earlier that we ended up having to hold a tribunal into the beef industry because Ministers were economic with the truth and were not prepared to answer Dáil questions in an up-front and honest manner. The Minister is continuing that practice. The standard of his replies is atrocious. He shows scant regard for the rights of Members by the obfuscation in which he engages. Frequently, the Minister answers a different question to that asked. No matter how clearly Members word their questions and how straightforward they are, the Minister is incapable of giving a straightforward answer. He reads pages of waffle about the history of an issue. Nobody asked about history; Members asked straight questions and the Minister is incapable of answering.

The Minister gave a commitment on this matter which he has failed to honour. Over ten weeks after he gave that commitment, he still has not delivered on it. I call on him to honour that commitment and to provide Members with the full list of 850 schools and the stage at which each one is at.

Clearly, the Minister is trying to hide; he is trying to play games with the future of many children in our schools and with staff who are struggling to survive in dilapidated buildings and conditions. The Minister seems to be hiding behind bureaucracy and the officials in his Department, and he is running away from his responsibility to the thousands of pupils, staff and parents. However, we all know that there is an election coming up in a couple of months and the Minister has a political motivation for guarding the information he has and for failing to notify schools of this year's allocation and whether or not they are getting the go-ahead—

I got a lot of extra money in between. Did the Deputy notice that?

I noticed that.

That was not the question asked.

That is not the question.

That was the allocation. The Deputy is not up-to-date.

For a start, the allocation that was made in the Estimates was pretty pathetic.

I request that there be no interruptions when Deputy Shortall is speaking. I suggest that if Deputy Shortall address her remarks through the Chair rather than to the Minister she might not invite interruption.

Thank you. The allocation made in the Estimates was so pathetic – it was less than last year's when inflation is taken into consideration – that an additional amount was provided in the budget. That is no great shakes and will not go anywhere close to meeting existing needs. It is clear that the Minister is holding on to this information and is delaying the announcement that would normally have been made at this stage in the year, purely for political reasons. He is leaving those schools hanging, not knowing what the future has in store for them or whether they will be able to go ahead with improvements this year, next year or the following year.

An example from my constituency is St. Canice's boys national school which was in a deplorable condition. The situation was incredible. Pupils had to wear their coats all day long in the school because the heating was so poor and the windows so draughty. Conditions were Dickensian. The school was told this year to bring in temporary prefabs to allow the building to go ahead. The whole school moved into temporary accommodation yet it is still waiting to find out from the Minister whether the project is going ahead this year. It is not fair to lead people up the garden path like that. The Minister is playing games with students and with limited schooldays. People have been left in limbo.

It is clear that the Minister wants to hold onto announcements of good news until the election is closer so he can look for a political dividend from those announcements. What about the other announcements such as those to schools which will not be getting the go-ahead this year? How many schools will be left waiting for the call from their local Fianna Fáil Deputy? I guarantee that those Deputies will not be ringing with the bad news.

The Minister should publish the list this week. We have waited ten weeks for it despite the Minister having all the necessary information. Schools should know exactly where they stand. In recent years, school principals have found it nearly impossible to get information about the status of the applications for building work in their schools. This is principally because the Minister for Education and Science does not want to tell the truth and admit his fundamental failure to deal with the ever-lengthening list of applications in his Department.

The Minister for Education and Science is not the only Cabinet member guilty of political misinformation, filibuster and bluff on this issue. The much heralded announcement by the Taoiseach a few weeks back regarding substandard schools has turned out to be a total non-event and has been a bitter disappointment to teachers and parents throughout the country. The public were told to expect an announcement of the biggest ever building programme. Once again, a Government announcement has failed to live up to the pre-event PR spin. Instead of firm proposals for a refurbishment programme, what we got from the Taoiseach was a woolly promise for another survey without the commitment of a single extra euro to rectify the appalling substandard conditions in many schools.

This announcement from the Taoiseach has joined the health strategy in the litany of preelection gimmicks launched by this over-spun Government in recent times.

Given the huge budget surpluses of recent years, the Government's failure to meet the legitimate demands of school communities will stand as a serious indictment of its term of office and a bitter disappointment to many communities which urgently need improved educational facilities.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate, but, unfortunately, time is very short. Rathmore, Glens in Dingle, Ballyferriter, Milltown and Anabhlaha are just five of the worst schools in south Kerry. They are but a small example of the list of schools which currently have applications before the Department of Education and Science and are waiting for answers to the following questions: when will the roof stop leaking? When will we have our new sports hall? When will we have our general purposes room? When will the rotting windows be replaced? When will the remedial and resource teachers have facilities?

I could list many more schools in the constituency of Kerry South which are awaiting movement from the Department on their applications for renovation, extension or upgrading, but I cannot list all of them because, as my colleague, Deputy Shortall, said, the Minister has refused to publish the full information. He has refused time and again in the House to tell Members which schools have applied for funding, what stage their applications are at and when it is envisaged that the work will be completed or even started.

Over the past five years I have stood up in this House to seek answers to the same questions about repairs and renovations to schools in my constituency. I have consistently raised the case of Rathmore national school, for example, on the adjournment and at every other opportunity. To this day, there are prefabs in which the classrooms are located and which are surrounded by rubble and mortar as the school authorities await the construction of a new school which the people of Rathmore were promised by my constituency colleagues before the last general election. Conditions are so bad that the staff and pupils had to walk out for one day in protest to the shame of the Minister and his parliamentary colleagues in south Kerry, among whom I include their Independent Fianna Fáil colleague who has made enough noise about the matter in my constituency over the past five years, but who, I am afraid, has delivered nothing.

I also mention Ballyferriter national school in which children with special needs are taught in the principal's tiny office and have their nappies changed on a cold toilet floor. I further mention the expanding Milltown national school which has been waiting for years for the commencement of a new sports hall, extension and new classrooms. Anabhlaha national school submitted an application for a general purposes room to the Department in 1996 and is still waiting.

Over the last five years we have heard rhetoric about the amount of money spent by the Department. The last Labour Party Minister for Education and Science, my colleague, Niamh Breathnach, did not treat my constituency colleagues with such disdain nor did she keep any pupils in prefabs while their schools were being built. She built seven new schools in the constituency of Kerry South during her tenure. That is an excellent record when set against that of the Minister who with the Government will be long remembered as having presided over a fundamental failure to invest in our children through the education system. The Government has had more resources at its disposal than any other Government in the history of the State, but at the end of its term of office 850 schools have applications before the Department which do not know the status of their applications because the Minister will not tell them. He repeatedly refuses to publish this information. I ask him to do one thing before he leaves office, that is, to please publish the list.

Publish and be damned.

I, too, support the motion. The Government will be remembered as the Administration which had unprecedented resources at its disposal, but which failed to deliver on the whole range of problems facing the people. No other Government had the options open to the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition and no other delivered so little. Hospital and housing waiting lists are longer than when it came to power. Traffic and transport problems are also worse, as is the condition of many schools.

When the findings of the INTO survey of 75 primary schools were published late last year, they confirmed what many parents, teachers, pupils and public representatives already knew, that is, that the condition of so many schools had been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that there was a real crisis. Let us remember what the INTO survey found. Of the 75 schools surveyed over 66% have inadequate toilet facilities; 50% have inadequate hand-washing or drying facilities; 40% do not have an adequate heating system; 43% have either no drinking water or water unfit to drink; 47% have rotten windows or doors; and 71% have an inadequate or unsafe school yard. The survey further found that most do not have basic facilities such as a general purposes room, a principal's office, staff rooms or rooms in which children needing extra teaching tuition can be taught by the learning support teacher.

Every public representative could identify further schools in his or her constituency not covered in the INTO survey but where conditions are almost as bad. The INTO survey dealt with primary schools only. There are many second level schools in which teachers work and pupils are taught in similarly unacceptable conditions.

The dismissive attitude of the Government in the face of such conditions almost defies belief. Not a day goes by without another newspaper story of yet another school where the parents and teachers have reached the end of their tether. In January we were all told to expect a major announcement from the Taoiseach. The Government spin doctors got to work and there were hints of an announcement of what would be the biggest ever rebuilding programme which would bring every school up to European standards. Some €335 million was going to be provided in the first year alone. That was certainly another case of a Government announcement failing to live up to the pre-event public relations spin. Instead of firm proposals for a rebuilding programme, all we got was the promise of another survey, without the commitment of a single extra euro to rectify the dreadful substandard conditions in many schools. We already know the condition of schools from the INTO survey and other studies. We do not need another survey. What we need is a commitment of funds and the approval of projects which, in many cases, have already been submitted.

As in the constituencies of other speakers, there are many schools in my constituency waiting for funding to provide better facilities for students and teachers, including Ballymore national school, St. Patrick's national school, Athy, Scoil Diarmada, Castledermot, Ballyshannon national school and Curragh post-primary school. In regard to Scoil Diarmada, I remember in 1953 when we moved from the hovel which was the school at the time to the present school, we thought it was a marvellous achievement that we had a new school. Unfortunately, it has now become substandard. There are no facilities for PE teaching, remedial teachers and the principal. Every room in the school is smaller than the size determined by the Department, yet the Office of Public Works is not in a position to buy even the field necessary to initiate the provision of a new school. The same applies to Ballyshannon national school where the children are housed in prefabs. This is totally unacceptable in the modern era of education.

We talk about the Celtic tiger, which we are letting pass by its most vital asset, the children of the future, for which the Minister is responsible. He is also responsible for providing the House with a list in order that we can give those children some hope. We must give some hope to future generations by providing proper facilities for educational purposes. I ask that the Minister provide the list as soon as possible. It would not be a major undertaking.

Debate adjourned.