Dáil Éireann - Volume 491 - 03 June, 1998

Schools Building Projects.

Mr. Bradford: With the permission of the House I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael Ahern.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Bradford: Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, could pass on to the Minister, Deputy Martin, an invitation to visit Rathcormac national school, which he passes frequently — it is situated about 50 yards from the Dublin-Cork road. It would be worth his while to stop to see at first hand the poor physical state of the school and the urgent need for new permanent accommodation. The school manager, principal, staff, pupils and parents are at their wits' end to secure proper accommodation. There is great and growing anger that the pupils have been dependent for so many years on prefabricated accommodation. The school structure is more than 50 years old and for 30 of those years many pupils have been accommodated in prefabs. That is not acceptable, especially in 1998.

The request from the parents, pupils and manager of Rathcormac school is for a permanent structure, including at least one classroom and a general purpose room and I hope the Minister of State will respond favourably. When one considers that vast amounts have been spent over the years on prefabricated accommodation, which needs to be replaced every five years, we should have recognised by now that permanent structures, grant aided by the Department, are not only a better job but are just as economic in the long-term. In 1998 we should put in place in Rathcormac what should have been provided years ago — permanent classroom extensions.

Mr. M. Ahern: I thank Deputy Bradford for sharing his time on this important issue. As he explained, the prefab has been there for more than 30 years and is in atrocious condition. There are holes in the floor, one of the internal walls fell down recently and, as one of the children said, “the stuffing is coming out of the walls”. It [1217] is a health hazard on top of everything else. I understand improvements are to be announced in the next few weeks and I hope this school is included because its inclusion is long overdue. A 30 year old prefab is not up to scratch today.

It is even more important to provide a proper extension because the population of Rathcormac is growing. Contrary to the demographic trends some years ago, the population in our area is increasing. That is likely to continue, because the tunnel and other improved facilities will persuade people to move out of the city. That will mean an increased school population in years to come.

Will the Minister of State communicate to the Minister, Deputy Martin, the urgent need to provide this new structure? As Deputy Bradford said, he should visit the school some day when passing through the town, as it is just beside the main road. He cannot miss it. I am sure he has seen it often. I hope this will jog his conscience and that he will have good news in the next few weeks.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Treacy): I am glad the Deputies have given me the opportunity to outline to this House the Department of Education and Science's current position regarding the provision of a permanent school building extension at Rathcormac national school, County Cork. The school currently has a staffing level of principal, three assistants and one shared remedial teacher not based in the school. There are ninety pupils enrolled in the school as of September 1997.

The school's existing accommodation consists [1218] of three permanent classrooms and two prefabricated classrooms which are reported to be in poor condition. One prefab is used full-time as a classroom, the other as a remedial room. It is predicted that the school's long-term accommodation need should cater for a staffing level of four teachers.

The school management applied to the Department for grant assistance towards one additional classroom and a general purposes room. A building project at Rathcormac is one of a number of urgent projects currently under consideration by the Department. We expect the process will be completed shortly. The Department will be in contact with the school management as soon as the matter is finalised.

I will convey to the Minister the Deputies' representations and their invitation to visit the school. If an official invitation is sent to the Minister by the school manager or the principal, who is also secretary of the board of management, the Minister will be only too delighted to consider it, as he is anxious to visit all schools throughout the country in the limited time available to him.

Mr. M. Ahern: Perhaps he could visit for the centenary of the school in about six months.

Mr. Treacy: That would be even better and I presume he could perform the official opening. I thank Deputies again for the opportunity of outlining to the House the current position on this matter and I will convey their strenuous representations to the departmental officials and the Minister.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.40 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 4 June 1998.