Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 02 October, 2003

Written Answers. - Schools Recognition.

  13. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will intervene to solve the crisis at Donabate Portrane Educate Together school. [21554/03]

  Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Donabate Portrane Educate Together national school was granted provisional recognition with effect from September 2002. When recognition was granted, the patron body of the school – Educate Together – was made aware that it was likely that a period of seven to ten years could elapse before permanent accommodation would be provided. This is due to the enormity of demand, including demands for permanent accommodation, within the system. It was further pointed out that it would remain the patron's responsibility to provide interim accommodation until my Department would be in a position to provide permanent accommodation. In this regard, my Department assists in defraying the cost of rent incurred.

  As part of the recognition process, the patron's proposals for accommodating the school were examined. These proposals involved locating the school in a local scouts den pending the outcome of negotiations to lease a suitable site on which portacabins could be erected. It was stated that these negotiations were at an advanced stage. The planning section of my Department expressed reservations at these proposals given that the scouts den could provide only a short-term solution and given my Department's concern that negotiations to secure accommodation that would provide a more medium-term solution were incomplete.

  However, my Department decided, on balance, to grant provisional recognition, accepting in good faith, that the patron body had arrangements in hand to accommodate the expected expansion of the school. As is the case for all schools granted provisional recognition, the patron and board of management were instructed to implement an enrolment policy that would per[1303] mit growth commensurate with the available accommodation.

  Regrettably, the patron body was unable to secure the accommodation solution originally proposed. An alternative site, in the ownership of Fingal County Council at Ballisk, was, however, sourced. This arrangement was deemed satisfactory and my Department approved the rental of portacabins and associated site costs. In recent weeks it appears that Fingal County Council had decided to dispose of the Ballisk site resulting in the option of accommodating the school on this site being no longer feasible.

  On Friday, 26 September, an alternative proposal was received from the school authorities. My Department was considering this. However, yesterday, it was brought to the attention of my Department that Fingal County Council had rescinded its decision to dispose of the Ballisk site and that the council was again prepared to make it available to the school. I understand that the school authority is in renewed discussions with the council in relation to this matter and it expects to be in a position to sign a lease for this site shortly. My Department had already agreed to grant aid the costs of portacabins for this site together with the associated site costs. This remains the position.