Dáil Éireann - Volume 593 - 25 November, 2004

Other Questions. - Schools Building Projects.

  7. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to advance the school building programme in the next 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30697/04]

  Ms Hanafin:The Deputy will be aware of the five year multi-annual envelopes for capital investment. I am not in a position to define the detailed expenditure until after budget day.

In the case of third level, the agenda is set by the Kelly report on a “Review and Prioritisation of Capital Projects in the Higher Education Sector”. The planned countrywide roll-out of broadband to schools during 2005 will continue to influence how funds are provided for schools ICT.

[851] The Deputy raised the issue of primary and post-primary schools. While I must await the clarification on my final allocation on budget day, I will want to make further significant inroads on moving to tender and construction projects that are already in the final stages of the design process and are likely to be ready to go to tender during the year.

In advancing the school building programme, I am anxious to further develop the focused schemes introduced to address historic under investment in our schools: initiatives such as the summer works scheme and all the other initiatives. It would be useful to list some of the projects in which we are involved such as, the grants scheme of minor works, the small schools initiative, the permanent accommodation initiative, design and build scheme, the standard and generic design, the standards and generic design for PE halls, technical guidance and the PPP project. As Deputies will be aware we are using a wide range of schemes to make serious inroads into the needs of building throughout the country.

  Ms Enright:The Minister has highlighted the need for Dáil reform as this is like a lottery system. Will she continue the reliance of her predecessor on providing for prefabs and what he called, good quality temporary accommodation? I was amazed to have been invited to an opening of what I thought were classrooms in my constituency last year to discover they were prefabs. That is not an adequate way to proceed. They may be a slightly better quality than what was there before but they will still run into the same problems down the road.

On the issue of public private partnerships, will the Minister clarify the position in regard to the use of those facilities after hours by sporting organisations? Who would have control of a public private partnership school? Is it the operator, be it Jarvis or whoever, and can they charge what they wish to community groups to use the facility? Does the Minister have an opinion on the fact that in the five public private partnerships schools there are coke machines and mars bar machines in the corridors? The principals and boards of management of the schools are unable to prevent the use of such machines to make money from children. This practice is obviously promoting poor dietary habits.

  Ms Hanafin:I understand that the management of the schools rests with the management bodies rather than the principals. I will provide the Deputy with details on after-school hours etc. I would be concerned if a principal were not able to control soft drinks and sweet machines. Most principals adopt a responsible and positive approach to these in their schools. I am sure that, by local arrangement with management and with health considerations and responsible teaching practices in mind, they should be able to address the issue.

[852] On temporary accommodation, the reality is that new prefabs constitute good-quality temporary accommodation. Many of them last for 20 or 30 years. They are ideal in cases where there is a blip in demographic trends such that there is an increase in enrolment for a few years. One might need them while building is taking place or while a school is waiting for a building project to commence, thus relieving the pressure on numbers. Obviously, if a school needs a small extension that costs a few hundred thousand euro while a prefab costs €70,000, we must consider how to achieve the best value for money. In many such cases, prefabricated temporary accommodation is needed in the interim. We obviously seek to address all these issues.