Seanad Éireann - Volume 113 - 01 July, 1986

Adjournment Matter. - County Galway School Extension.

Mr. T. Hussey: I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this issue here this evening. I should like also to thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kenny, for coming here and listening to what I have to say. Hopefully, he will be able to offer some useful advice when he replies later on. I take this opportunity of wishing the Minister every success in his new appointment.

Since I put down this motion two weeks ago the situation has changed somewhat in that I have been notified by the Minister of State during the week that tenders are being invited. This is a step in the right [1595] direction and proves that my motion, to a certain extent, has been successful.

The extension planned for this, the Lavally school, Tuam, County Galway is urgently required. It is urgently required to allay the frustrations of the teachers, parents and pupils. It is impossible to teach children in the overcrowded, cramped conditions that obtain at this school. To illustrate the overcrowding I would remind the House that some years ago there were 85 pupils on the rolls and three teachers. Now there are 155 pupils and five teachers, and no additional accommodation. There are five teachers with 155 pupils and only three classrooms. The overcrowding has been brought about by the amalgamation of Ardgloragh national school at Lavally. The parents and teachers of Ardgloragh were given a commitment at that time that proper facilities would be provided at Lavally. But, unfortunately, to date the Department have not honoured that commitment.

The extension required, which includes three new classrooms and renovation work to the existing school, has been costed by the Department at £180,000. The board of management were asked to contribute £20,000. They raised this three years ago through a series of fund raising events in the parish. This commitment from the parents is an indication of their determination to have the necessary works carried out. Unfortunately, their determination to have the work carried out has not been matched by the Department. I would appeal to the Minister today to cut the red tape and proceed with the work immediately. It is imperative that that should be done now so that work could proceed during the summer holidays. In that way there would be no further disruption of classes.

I would ask the Minister to have a proper playground provided. I hope that this could be included in the extension plans. The playground is very wet and occasionally it becomes flooded. This, coupled with the overcrowded conditions in the school, is not the right environment for children during the most important [1596] years of their lives. Every public representative in the area has been involved in this project. We have met the parents, individually and collectively, and the teachers. They are very concerned and anxious that work should proceed on the extension to this school.

All the facts are with the Department. All that remains now is that the go ahead be given as soon as possible. I am confident that the Minister, who understands the problem, will accede to my request and that the work will be put in motion during the summer holidays, if at all possible. In that way there will be very little disruption of the classes at that school.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Kenny): I am glad to be able to respond positively on this occasion to Senator Hussey and to thank him for placing his motion on the Seanad agenda. I have had an interest in Lavally school for some time in that I was trained with the vice-principal there, Master McHugh, and I have had some personal contact with him about the situation. I have also had numerous representations from the political representatives in Galway. I was trained there, along with Deputy Kitt, who has been fairly vociferous in this matter also.

I took the opportunity to visit Lavally school in the presence of the Minister of State, Deputy Connaughton, quite recently. I met the board of management and teachers there and saw for myself at first hand the very poor conditions under which the students, staff and everybody else concerned have to conduct their business. I was glad, therefore, to be able to formally inform the political people and everybody else concerned in Galway that I had decided to release Lavally school for the invitation of tenders.

I cannot say on what precise date in July, 1986 the advertisements will appear in the newspapers but the Senator can take it for granted that that will take place. I cannot then prejudice what contractors will apply for a tender in this case. One has to go through the mechanics of the tender process before a contract can be placed. There is, therefore, no [1597] possibility of the work actually starting this summer. I have made that perfectly clear to the parents and board of management. The Senator can rest assured that when the tenders have been invited, examined and approved, I will endeavour to place a contract with the chosen contractor at the earliest possible time. I will, of course, consult with Senator Hussey and his parliamentary colleagues in East Galway about that matter. This is one of 4,000 schools with which we are dealing [1598] in the Department of Education. To have reached the step of invitation to tenders is a major advancement indeed. I trust that there will be no difficulties with the contractors who tender and that the people of Lavally will have, at the earliest opportunity, a school fitting for their needs in an educational sense.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.50 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 July 1986.