Seanad Éireann - Volume 146 - 01 February, 1996

Adjournment Matters. - Pallaskenry (Limerick) School.

Mr. Neville: I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for taking this Adjournment matter. Pallaskenry national school is in urgent need of proper facilities. A proposal to sanction the construction of four classrooms together with extra toilets, cloakrooms and a storeroom for this school is with the Department of Education and I ask him to consider it as a matter of urgency. At present 70 pupils are catered for in two classrooms which are situated in a totally unsuitable prefabricated building. There are just three classrooms in the prefabricated building to cater for 70 pupils, in two classes, and a remedial teacher. The prefabricated building is 18 years old. It has been in use in the school for ten years and was in service for eight years prior to that in another school. It is totally unsuitable and it is unacceptable in 1996 that school children should have to be accommodated in such facilities.

The teachers cannot do their work properly because of the conditions in which they are working. The overcrowding in this school is totally unsatisfactory. The external walls of the building are rotting, there is dry rot on the floors of the classrooms; the whole building is in an absolute mess. The Office of Public Works has informed the school management that the structure is beyond repair. The building is very cold in winter and warm in summer. I have had this experience in other areas with [211] prefabricated schools, especially in Rathkeale. This type of building was never meant for use as classrooms over a 12 month period. During June of 1995 classes were obliged to go outdoors because of the extreme heat in the rooms.

There is no insulation and there is no toilet attached to this building. The children are obliged to cross the main schoolyard to reach the toilet, which creates enormous difficulties during wet weather. Pupils must cross from the permanent structure to the prefabricated classrooms under similar conditions to obtain remedial teaching. The current situation is totally unsatisfactory.

Pallaskenry is a growing town. It is a satellite town of Limerick city and the student population will expand over the coming years. Pallaskenry is a very attractive area to live in, reasonably adjacent to Limerick. I estimate that in the past 20 years its population has quadrupled. There are some council housing estates there, together with estates built during the development of Aughinish Alumina and private housing developments. It is an extremely attractive area and demand for sites is increasing.

The present situation at Pallaskenry national school is totally unsuitable and I pay tribute to the teachers who are working in those conditions for their dedication to their pupils, their work and to the parish and for the fact that they have been prepared to tolerate those conditions for ten years. I ask the Minister to talk to the senior Minister and the Government, and to deliver the proper accommodation to Pallaskenry national school.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): I am glad that Senator Neville has given me the opportunity of outlining to this House my Department's current position in regard to Pallaskenry national school, County [212] Limerick. At present the school has a current staffing level of a principal and seven assistant teachers, one of whom is a shared remedial teacher, and it has an enrolment of 200 pupils. Accommodation at the school consists of five permanent classrooms and three prefabricated classrooms.

In May 1995 the board of management of the school wrote to my Department seeking approval for the replacement of three prefabricated classrooms. To assess the likely accommodation needs of the school over the next number of years and establish whether new prefabs were the best option, my Department's planning section undertook a full review of enrolment trends. In the meantime, the school was in further contact with my Department in October last seeking a permanent extension of four classrooms instead of prefabs.

The planning review was completed last week and, based on this review, my Department believes that a permanent extension of the school is the best option. The next stage in the process is to agree with the school the level of accommodation that should be provided. My Department will be in touch with the school on this issue in the next week or so. Following that contact, I expect that progress can be made in undertaking necessary improvements at the school. The Senator can be assured of my desire to see an improvement in conditions at the school and I thank him for the opportunity to outline the position.

Mr. Neville: I thank the Minister for his reply. I am glad progress has been made and I hope the momentum which the Minister has initiated in relation to the development of this project will be maintained.