Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ceisteanna (6)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

6. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the completion of a school (details supplied); when he expects works will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4885/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Education)

This is a follow-up question to a question I put down in October on plans for a new school building and a realistic timeframe for the completion of that building.

The school referred to by the Deputy is an all-Irish national school serving the heart of Dublin city which is currently located in rented accommodation in Parnell Square. Current enrolment stands at 202 pupils with a current staffing of one principal plus eight mainstream teaching posts and three special education support teachers. The site for the school is quite restricted and is bounded by Dominick Street Lower to the front, Dominick Place to the rear and No. 20 Dominick Street to the north which is a protected structure.

The original design brief for this project was for an eight-classroom primary school and a team to design this project was appointed by open competition in December 2012. However, due to increasing enrolments, the brief increased to a 16-classroom school. The project has been designed up to stage 2A - developed design - as an eight-classroom primary school by this design team with a design indication option of how a 16-classroom school could be fitted into this restrictive site. In April of last year, the services of this design team were terminated by mutual agreement and it became necessary to commence the tender process to appoint a new design team to complete fully a stage 2A, developed-design report for the 16-classroom school. This process is nearing completion, letters of intent have issued to each of the disciplines and once final documentation checks are completed in full, my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities to advise them as to the next steps in the process. The progression of this project through architectural planning and into construction will be dealt with as part of my Department's schools building programme 2016 to 2021.

I attended with others a public AGM of the parents in October which led to my first question to the Minister at that time. The Minister set out those details then. I acknowledge the work the school and the Department have done. The patron, trustees, board of management, parents' council and teachers have done a great deal of extra work to progress the project since the decision was taken to double the size of the school. As to the design, will there be enough open space for the children given the restricted site? Are we clear on that given the importance of an open playing space for children? Can the Minister provide a realistic timeframe going forward? That is what I really want to get today. The school has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years. Does the Minister have any idea of when the tendering process will be completed and the next stage will commence?

On timing, the letters of intent issued to the apparently successful tenders on 12 December 2017, which is a relatively recent date. It is not possible for me to forecast when various stages will complete. As the Deputy said, this started as a plan for an eight-teacher school, but that changed. Changes of that nature are beyond my capacity to predict and it would be very hazardous for me to suggest a completion date. The Department will work with the school and the design team. As to the open space, I have no information. I presume the design team has worked with the school to ensure its needs are met, but I do not have information on the detailed brief that has been drawn up.

I cannot but be struck in the constituency I represent, by the speed and urgency with which third-level student accommodation is going up while here we have a school which has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years. The Department provides a grant towards that temporary accommodation for the school every year and one must think about what that money could be used to achieve if the school moved to a permanent site. I ask the Minister to ensure this stays on the agenda and for real progress for teachers and pupils in 2018. As it stands, they are in unsuitable accommodation which is unfair to the staff and the children and is costing the Department money.

This will be dealt with as speedily as possible within my Department. It is, of course, necessary to use temporary accommodation at times. In an ideal world we would not be doing it, but schools grow at different paces and one has to be flexible. Temporary accommodation is a necessary way to deliver a consistent programme over time, but I take the Deputy's point and hopefully we can make good progress on the project.