I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise the urgent need for an extension to Nicker national school — Roll No. 142314 — in County Limerick. The school has 94 pupils and it is forecast that this figure could reach 120 within four years.
The school seeks the necessary funds to carry out major important work to the school. The main school building has two mainstream classrooms, a smaller room used by the resource teacher and a similar room serving the dual purpose of office and staff room. There are two pre-fabs, both used as mainstream classrooms, which have been on the site for more than 40 years. These are in very poor condition and in no way represent an appropriate environment for the safe and successful education of children. We know, from experience of these situations, that changes of temperature in very warm or very cold weather make these classrooms very uncomfortable and unsuitable for teachers and pupils. There is also a small pre-fab that was bought some years ago by the school. It is used by the learning support teacher.
The toilets are in a separate building at the rear of the main school building. It is totally inappropriate that children must go out into the open when using the toilets. This would be totally unacceptable in any school in Ireland and should not be the case in Nicker school in County Limerick.
The issues I have raised make for a very unsatisfactory, sub-standard and defective working environment. They present all kinds of health and safety issues concerning the children and their welfare, especially when children are leaving the classrooms to use the toilets.
The wall in front of the school is between 18" and 24" from the ground on the inside, but there is a drop of 4 ft. on the road side. Due to the very limited play area at the back of the school, the younger children must use the area between the front of the main building and this wall. Despite the constant and watchful eyes of those on yard duty, this is an accident waiting to happen. We are concerned for the safety of the children who play in this area. We cannot tolerate putting children in danger.
The board of management has purchased a piece of land adjacent to the school. The plan is to build the extension onto the rear of the present main building and use the land that was bought as a play area. The extension will involve two mainstream classrooms, a classroom for the learning support teacher, an office, indoor toilets and a general purpose room. There is no facility to build indoor toilets unless the extension is built.
The land was purchased last February at a cost of €23,650. I congratulate the board of management on a very successful fund-raising event, which places it in a position to provide the specified local contribution for the capital works the school wishes to undertake. Alternatively, the board would be happy for the Minister to look at allocating funding under the devolved grant scheme, if that would be more suitable.
I ask the Minister to prioritise this school in the next schools building programme, because of the condition of the toilets and the prefabs and for the safety of the children.