Dáil Éireann - Volume 458 - 14 November, 1995

Adjournment Debate. - Waterford College Accommodation.

Mr. Kenneally: Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment and I thank the Minister of State for coming into the House this evening to reply.

Since the present principal took over at Waterpark College in August 1990, the school has gone from strength to strength. This is due to two factors, first, they way the present incumbent has gone about this task and, second, the explosion in the population of this parish in the city.

Waterpark College is situated in Lower Newtown, on the main Waterford to Dunmore East road. This road has become the busiest road in the southeast over the past number of years, if not in the country. I remember some years ago hearing daily reports on RTE about traffic problems on the Ennis road in Limerick. The problem was so bad it became something of a national joke. Eventually, action was taken to improve matters. For some reason, best known to it, RTE tends to ignore Waterford city when giving traffic reports but if it did not, I am sure the Dunmore road would be mentioned every day and would now attract the same notoriety nationally as the Ennis road did previously.

I mention this roads problem to highlight the additional demands that have arisen in this part of the city on all services, not just educational establishments. The Minister of State may recall [388] that I previously raised the pressing need for additional accommodation at Ballygunner national school which was subsequently sanctioned. That school is in the same parish as Waterpark College. If it is necessary to provide additional accommodation at primary level, it follows there is a need for additional accommodation at secondary level.

Waterpark College is experiencing an accommodation shortfall of critical proportions. At the beginning of the next academic year pupils will have to be refused entry as short-term measures will not be adequate to tackle the scale of the problem being experienced. Arising from sustained enrolment increases, the college must, as a matter of urgency, seek the immediate inclusion in the 1996 Estimates of capital funding in respect of the schedule of accommodation already agreed with the planning and building unit of the Department of Education.

The enrolment for the 1995-96 academic year is 400 approximately. When this is compared to projections submitted in July 1994 it can be seen that the college has exceeded its target enrolment figures a full year ahead of schedule. While, in one way, this is welcome and clear proof that its case merits immediate attention it nevertheless consigns the college which has a proud tradition and an ever increasing enrolment to the severest accommodation shortfall.

The original accommodation capacity was 200, but the college projects an enrolment of 450 approximately. Apart from the accommodation shortfall, this has created administrative problems: teaching difficulties because of the lack of space; problems with storage and catering; a shortage of toilet facilities for teachers; a lack of language facilities; no specialist rooms, such as a computer room, audio-visul room, technology room, lunch room, wet day shelter or social area. There is a derelict prefabricated science laboratory and one outdoor toilet block comprised of six cubicles for 400 pupils.

[389] I am informed that the case made by the college authorities for additional accommodation has already been accepted by officials in the Department. However, the sacrifices made by all connected with the college will amount to nothing unless it is examined at ministerial level as a matter of urgency.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): I am grateful to the Deputy for giving me this opportunity to clarify the position concerning the provision of additional accommodation at Waterpark College, Waterford city. In 1994, the school principal brought to the attention of the Department the serious lack of suitable accommodation at this school. This accommodation problem has occurred as a result of a number of factors as follows: the school is located in an area of Waterford where considerable housing development has and still is taking place; the school was built for a capacity of 200 pupil places, but current enrolments are in excess of this and expected to rise to more than double this year; the school is expected to retain its pupils for the foreseeable future and, therefore, occupies a “niche in the market” which will hold pupil numbers.

As a result of these findings, the Department's planning section projects a long-term enrolment of 425 pupil places and additional permanent accommodation will be provided on that basis.

In July this year a schedule of residual accommodation and a schedule of suggested future use of existing accommodation was agreed by the school authorities. The extension will be 1,573 metres square and is estimated to cost in excess of £1 million.

The school authorities have nominated their design team which is currently being examined by the post primary's professional staff. It is hoped to begin the architectural planning of this extension early next month.

I am fully aware of the urgent need for this extension at Waterpark College and I will ensure that every effort is made to commence the architectural [390] planning of this extension so that the new building may proceed at the earliest opportunity.