Thursday, 11 May 2006

Ceisteanna (184)

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

184 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are approximately 400 children being taught in prefabs in national schools in Naas, County Kildare; if she will request the boards of management of each of the schools involved to advise her of the number of children being taught in each school in prefabs; the school year they are in; if any of the teachers teaching these children are temporary; and if she will request the boards of management to contact each of the parents of the children being taught in prefabs to establish if they would prefer their children to continue in their existing school or to be taught in a new permanent building such as a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [17766/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

The new school to which the Deputy refers was provided to meet the growing need for primary education in Naas. It was not provided to replace prefabricated accommodation in the existing schools. Therefore the question of transferring pupils to the newly built school does not arise.

Only one of the existing schools has applied for the replacement of temporary accommodation. The Boards of Management of the other schools have been advised by my Department to make similar applications. My Department will then look at the totality of provision in the area with a view to replacing the temporary accommodation with permanent buildings in accordance with its policy in this area.

The new school to which the Deputy refers opened in September 2005. It currently accommodates two junior infant classes. When fully occupied, the school will operate as a two-stream 16-classroom school. To enable it develop in this manner, it can only enrol two junior infant classes annually. This incremental development is common to all newly established schools to ensure that a shortage of accommodation at the school is avoided by an over enrolment in the early stages and crucially, to ensure that the enrolments and staffing levels in other schools in the area, where older pupils would inevitably be drawn, are not adversely affected. Notwithstanding this position and as an exceptional matter, the school has been given approval to enrol three junior infant classes for the next school year on the grounds that this will not impact negatively on the other schools in question.

Typically, a new school commences in temporary accommodation. Accommodation is provided incrementally, thereafter, to meet the schools junior infant intake level each year in the context of junior infant accommodation available in other schools in the area. A new school would have achieved a certain sustainable growth level without affecting other schools before transferring to its permanent accommodation. Its developmental curve would continue on this basis until all its accommodation is in use.

Because a building is available for the school in question at inception does not mean that an orderly growth can be abandoned given the effect that excessive enrolments will have on other schools in the area which have also been funded by the taxpayer. While enrolment policies are a matter for school authorities, the Department expects the enrolment polices of individual schools to compliment the demand for pupil places in an area and, as in this case, to assist the growth of the new school in an orderly fashion. This is in the best interests of the schools, pupils and wider community alike.

Fundamentally, the existing schools, which have served the community well, particularly by obliging with extra pupil places when there was severe pressure for such places in recent years, now have a certain level of accommodation and teaching allocations in place. This cannot be ignored because a new school and a new building have come on stream which will, in their own right, cater for the continuing growing needs of the area as time goes by as was always my Department's intention. The question is how to support the new school until it is in a position to operate within the confines of its own current funding resources which will grow year on year. This is under discussion with the Board of Management.