Dáil Éireann - Volume 567 - 22 May, 2003

Adjournment Debate. - School Accommodation.

  Mr. Deenihan: Dromclough national school is situation 3.5 miles from Listowel, off the main Listowel-Tralee road. Due to its proximity to Listowel and the spiralling cost of sites in the town, a large number of houses have been built in the vicinity of the school. These houses belong in the main to young married couples with families and returned emigrants with families. A large number of building sites have also been sold in the area. Three of the existing classrooms are far too small for full classes in modern times. When they were built in 1964 the numbers in the school were much less. There is no room for storage or computers and movement in corridors is restricted for both teachers and pupils.

  A pupil had a serious accident in her classroom in September 2002 when she fell while going from the blackboard to her seat. The classrooms do not lend themselves to the implementation of the revised curriculum as envisaged by the Department of Education and Science or by the school management. Therefore, consideration should be given to redesigning these three rooms as special tuition rooms, a general office and a multipurpose room. As these rooms are to the front of the building they are readily accessible to all.

  The existing GP room is inadequate for the size of the school. There is also no access to it without accessing the main building, the children's toilets and corridors with confidential files. Therefore, community groups using this room have access to the whole building and to the alarm system. Consideration should be given to converting the existing GP room into a staff room and resource area with room for the storage for materials. It is simply located within the building.

  The current staff room is just nine sq. m. It also doubles as the secretary's office and contains a photocopier and computer. As of 12 September 2002, there were 11 teachers, three SNAs and one secretary. All of these use the staff room daily, not accounting for visitors such as the chairman of the board of management, inspectors and so on.

  As already stated, filing cabinets are currently stored by necessity in a corridor, thus reducing the width of the corridor to 1,100 millimetres. The recommendation of the Department of Education and Science is 1,800 millimetres. There is a serious and urgent lack of storage space. Total storage in the school is a cleaners' room of three sq. m. Even the staff have had to put the fridge into this cleaners' room. There is no storage provided with any classroom or GP room and there is no strong room in the building.

  There is no library or resource room. Neither is there any facility for a computer room, which is essential at this time. There is no principal's office despite the fact that the school has an administrative position. If parents call to the [693]school they have to be dealt with in the corridor or the yard. A private or confidential phone call has to be taken in the toilet. There is no hot water supply to any basins for pupils. There is hot water to two of the staff toilets only.

  There are four entrances to the building from the front. This has given rise to serious security considerations as it is impossible to monitor access. Three old classrooms were each built with their own access. There is no corridor and pupils and teachers going from one of these classrooms to the other parts of the building must go outside the building. This is entirely impractical and, indeed, dangerous for the younger pupils. A corridor should be provided along the front of these three rooms, thus linking them to the main entrance. This would increase security considerably.

  There are no sanitary facilities for handicapped people in the building. The present building is entirely flat roofed. This has never been satisfactory. New structures in particular should not be flat roofed. There is a lack of staff toilets, for women in particular, as there is only one toilet for 13 female teachers at break time.

  I appeal to the Minister to consider the request for temporary accommodation for September. I understand that approval for this has been forwarded to the Department of Education and Science by the local inspector, Mr. O'Donovan. The principal has identified the need for extra accommodation since 2002, when he knew that he would have an extra appointment. I know the Minister of State present is not responsible for this, but given the fact that this is my alma mater, I have a special interest in it, so he might do his best to ensure that temporary accommodation is provided in September.

  Mr. Parlon: I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the Department of Education and Science's current position regarding the allocation of funding to school building projects. Some of the examples the Deputy point out are very much like my own alma mater, but thankfully we have a new school in Coolderry.

  The 2003 capital programme has now been published and full details regarding individual projects are now available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. Section 12 of the programme sets out the details of the temporary accommodation projects that were approved by the Department of Education and Science. However, based on the budgetary allocation it was not possible to make provision for any further temporary accommodation projects, including the application from Drumclough national school.

  The budgetary allocation for 2004 and subsequent years will determine the rate of progress on applications that could not be included in this year's programme. In the meantime the management authorities at individual schools should continue to use funds from their devolved grant to [694]deal with any urgent health and safety matters. Again I thank the Deputy. I wish I had some better news for him on this occasion.