Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 14 December, 1995

Adjournment Debate. - Mallow (Cork) School.

Mr. M. Ahern: I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to raise on the Adjournment the important question of the provision of a new vocational education committee school at Summerhill in Mallow, County Cork. The [1931] present school, known as Davis College, was built in 1943 and extensions were added in 1960, 1968 and 1973. The present capacity is 400, the total enrolment is 485 and the projected enrolment in the immediate years ahead is 500.

In October 1994, Cork County vocational education committee announced that the Department of Education had sanctioned the building of a new school to cater for the projected enrolment of 500 students. At present, due to the increase in numbers the school has had to rent accommodation from Dairygold Co-op, but the rented building is not adjoining the school campus. It fragments the school. It also-raises safety concerns for students and staff who must travel between the two sites.

The condition of the main building of Davis College is substandard and major expenditure is required to maintain the rotting windows and doors which present a safety and security risk. The narrow stairs and corridors and partition classrooms with a single narrow exit also add to the safety risk. The prefabricated classrooms have been condemned by an architect in the Department of Education, but despite that classes must be conducted in those primitive, insecure, damp and unsafe structures.

There is a total lack of adequate, safe storage space for valuable equipment, such as TVs, videos, camcorders or for students' projects which they must take home despite the Department's directive that they should be retained until after the junior certificate results are issued.

The staffroom is totally inadequate and Dickensian. Office accommodation is not acceptable or suitable. The school library is housed in a leaking prefabricated room. The toilet facilities are inadequate for the current demand of staff and students.

I request the Minister of State to ensure that building of the new school commences immediately to meet the [1932] needs of the students and staff to provide them with acceptable accommodation and equipment in these latter years of the 20th century.

Mr. Allen: I thank Deputy Ahern for giving me the opportunity to respond to this debate. Recently I met a delegation from that school, including the principal whom I met on two occasions. I am aware of the position that has prevailed for many years. It must be examined urgently and that is being done.

I would like to outline the background to this matter for the information of the House. In 1982 the Department agreed, in principle, to a request by the County Cork Vocational Education Committee for a new vocational school building at Mallow. A ten acre site on the southern end of the town was purchased and a schedule of accommodation for 550 pupils was issued to the vocational education committee in November 1983. Planning of the new building proceeded and in November 1985 stage 3 of the design team procedures was submitted to the Department.

In March 1987 the project was put on hold because of the school's enrolment trends at the time, the possibility of rationalisation in the centre and the scarcity of capital finance. The question of rationalisation or amalgamation of schools in the Mallow centre was considered on a number of occasions since 1988 and discussions were held with the authorities of the schools involved. However, agreement was not reached on the matter.

Accordingly, the Department has now agreed that a replacement school building for the vocational school should be provided on the site acquired by the vocational education committee some years ago.

In May 1995 the vocational education committee was requested to complete an educational worksheet which was received in June 1995. The accommodation requirements of Davis College have been assessed by the Department [1933] and a schedule of overall accommodation to cater for 450 pupils, including provision for an all-Irish stream, has recently been forwarded to the vocational education committee.

When the schedule of accommodation has been formally accepted, County Cork vocational education committee will be requested to submit a proposed design team to start the process of architectural planning.

Regarding the timescale for construction, the Deputy will appreciate that while the financial resources available to the Department for building purposes are limited, the demand for new and replacement accommodation in the post-primary sector has been, and will continue to be, very high. At this early stage it is not possible to say when building will commence at Davis College.

Nevertheless, I am fully conscious of the accommodation requirements of the school and I assure the Deputy that every effort will be made by the County Cork vocational education committee and my Department to expedite the planning of the project.

I hope that information is helpful to Deputy Ahern.