I welcome this opportunity to raise the important issue of Coláiste Dhún Másc in Portlaoise. I also welcome that the Minister of State is taking this debate today. Coláiste Dhún Másc was established in 2017 and opened two years ago. The school currently has 78 pupils and is housed on an interim basis in what was the old technical school on Railway Street in Portlaoise. The building was renovated by the vocational education committee, which is now Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board, ETB. The building is okay but has some shortcomings, for example, there is very little space around it to use as play areas and no room for expansion. I give great credit to Laois and Offaly ETB, the staff of the college, particularly an príomhoide, Aoife Elster, who has done great work, and An Foras Patrúnachta, which is joint patron along with Laois and Offaly ETB.
The school is dhátheangach; it is a bilingual school. There is an Irish stream and an English stream and it is very successful. There are 78 pupils in the school despite the fact it only has first and second year classes at the moment. Pupils from throughout County Laois attend. The school provides second level education for children from all schools, but particularly to those from the three Gaelscoileanna in the county, Gaelscoil Shlí Dála, Gaelscoil Thromaire and Gaelscoil Phortlaoise. It is a huge success story. It also has a stream taught as Béarla, which brings in all pupils.
The school has grown beyond anyone's expectation and already has 112 pupils registered for September. I acknowledge that we have three relatively new secondary schools in Portlaoise, with three large schools built in the town in the past 15 years. I acknowledge that because sometimes we complain about what it not happening. There has been a major expansion in second level education, and indeed in primary education, in the county. Investment has been made in education over the past 12 or 13 years. Sometimes when the schools are being built people ask if they will ever be filled, but they are being filled. Demographic information is telling us they are filling up even more quickly. We have run out of space and outgrown the buildings. Portlaoise is a very fast-growing town. These schools are taking pupils from large catchment areas. Coláiste Dhún Másc in particular, because of its Irish stream, is bringing in children from all parts of the county all the way to the outer fringes. It is a great success story but it needs a new site and a new building. Laois and Offaly ETB will ensure the current building does not stand empty. It is a very dynamic organisation which plays a significant role in providing further education in counties Laois and Offaly. It provides a broad range of educational supports and all sorts of courses to help people to train, upskill and get back into work. Coláiste Dhún Másc is located in the old technical school. We must start the process of tying down a site for it so that it can move on and expand.