Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 01 October, 2003

School Accommodation.

  Mr. M. Moynihan: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me the opportunity to raise on the Adjournment the issue of the provision of temporary accommodation for St. Brendan's national school, Hollymount, Rathmore, just inside the Cork border. The application for temporary accommodation has been with the Department for some time and has progressed along its normal lines of communication. The board of management of the school has applied for planning permission to erect temporary accommodation and has been in ongoing contact with the Department.

  Hollymount national school is an excellent school with a proud tradition. Settled at the foot of Caherbarna Mountain, it is probably one of the most rural schools in my constituency and has a long tradition of learning. It is vital that the Government provides the basic infrastructure to meet the needs of rural national schools, which are of crucial importance.

  Conditions in the school are currently very cramped, with students confined to small areas and ancillary teaching activities taking place in corridors and other areas not conducive to proper education. Temporary accommodation is probably not the best option. What is needed is full refurbishment. However, in view of current financial circumstances, temporary accommodation must be provided at Hollymount. I urge the Minister and the Department, when concluding the Estimates for the 2004 budget, to ensure that priority is given to the provision of temporary accommodation at Hollymount national school.

  Hollymount has a long tradition of learning. There have been many debates throughout the country about rural areas. One of the good things rural areas enjoy is a great education system. However, due to depopulation the numbers at the schools are falling. St. Brendan's is an excellent school and the number of pupils is increasing, which is the reason the application for temporary accommodation is before the Department of Education and Science. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the school is on the list in 2004 for the provision of that accommodation. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

  Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O'Malley): I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it gives me the opportunity, on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science, to outline to the House the position regarding St. Brendan's national school, Rathmore.

  St. Brendan's national school, which is co-educational, is situated three miles from Rathmore. There are plans for the construction of a new, central school for Rathmore. However, St. Brendan's will not be involved in this proposed central school. Pupil numbers in the school have been fluctuating in recent years, showing an overall slight decline from 41 in 1993 to 34 in 2002.

  The board of management has made an application to the Department of Education and Science for major refurbishment/improvement works at the school. The proposed project has been assessed in the planning section of the Department of Education and Science and is currently awaiting the appointment of a design team to commence architectural planning. In the interim, the board of management applied for the provision of temporary accommodation at the school. However, due to budgetary constraints the Department of Education and Science was not in a position to approve of the school's proposal in this regard.

  The 2003 building programme at primary and post-primary levels amounts to €342.9 million – four times the amount allocated in 1997. The programme will deliver over 140 large-scale projects at primary and post-primary levels. In addition, over 400 schools will benefit in some way from the capital programme and, of course, all primary schools benefit directly from the devolved grants scheme for minor works. Budgetary provisions for 2004 and subsequent years will determine the rate of progress on all projects, including the applications to address the short-term and permanent accommodation needs of St. Brendan's national school, that could not be included in this year's programme.

  The management authorities at St. Brendan's national school should continue to use funds from the devolved grant to deal with any urgent health and safety matters.