Thu, Nov 30, 2023
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Neasa asked the Minister for Education when her Department expects to complete the assessment of the additional accommodation scheme application from Corpus Christi Girls National School; what steps she can take to ensure the additional accommodation is promptly delivered; and what steps she can take to ensure the return to use of the hall as a community space.
I’d just like to ask about the assessment of the additional accommodation scheme application for the Corpus Christi Girls National School. What steps you are taking to ensure the additional accommodation is promptly delivered and in particular, to ensure the use of the hall as a community space.
Thank you very much, Deputy.
Since 2020, the Department of Education has invested in the region of 3.5 billion euro in our schools throughout the country, involving the completion of more than 690 school building projects and with construction currently underway for more than 300 building projects and indeed other projects. School building projects at construction involve an overall state investment of over 1.2 billion euro. We also have 200 modular accommodation projects that are very well advanced for delivery or at construction stage. This is a record level of investment in our schools and highlights the Government’s very strong track record in terms of delivery in providing additional capacity and moderate facilities for our school communities. The main focus of the Department’s resources over the last decade and indeed for the coming period, is the provision of critical additional capacity to cater for increasing demographics.
I can confirm to the deputy that the department is in receipt of an application under the ASA The Additional School Accommodation Scheme from Corpus Christi Girls National School. The purpose of the additional school accommodation scheme is to ensure that essential mainstream and special education classroom accommodation is available to cater for pupils enrolled each year and where the need cannot be met by the school’s existing accommodation. I’m pleased to confirm that the application from Corpus Christi Girls National School has been assessed and has been approved to move to the next stage.
The project involves reconfiguration of the existing school and parish hall to establish two special education classes along with two mainstream classrooms, a special education tuition room and a universal access toilet. Additionally, a request from the school’s patron for a change of status to coeducational with effect from 2024 to 25 school year has been approved by the department.
The parish is making the hall available to the school in question, and as such, any use of the hall as a community space is currently a matter for the parish. The hall will ultimately form part of the overall school property. In such circumstances, any use by the community in the future will be a matter for the school’s Board of Management.
In general, the priority use of school property will be for educational purposes. However, it is department policy to support the use of school facilities for wider community usage where that’s possible. Thank you.
Thank you, Minister, for those two confirmations of those two very important approvals. And I take your point that community use is a matter for the parish. But I suppose what we’re talking about here today is just how use in use the building is. And as you know, the hall closed in 2020, ostensibly for fire safety reasons, and there’d be some differing views on that. And there has been a hard fought local campaign, as you outlined there, and it’s good news. And this time last year, actually, we got that great news that the hall would be given to the school for allowing for those special education needs and the classroom there that hasn’t a year later, we’re still not in use with that classroom. And I think you’re aware of kind of the urgency of the need there and that the girls school doesn’t have a PE space either. So I suppose really what we’re looking for is a kind of a sense of timelines and whether this can be expedited. You know, that space is at a premium in the constituency and certainly hard to come by in that area. So anything we could do to move it along as fast as possible will be very much appreciated.
Thank you very much Deputy, just to confirm and you’re correct that this particular building, the parish hall or whatever, has been closed since 2020, it will now form part of the school going forward, and that currently for it to be used by the community is a matter for the parish. The parish would make that decision when it becomes part of the school set up. It will be a matter for the Board of Management. But we have very clear guidelines and indeed consistently updating that in terms of that, there would be uses made available to local communities. And I’m personally very engaged in that and very supportive of it. And indeed I know Minister Thomas Byrne is also very engaged in that space in ensuring that facilities that are within a school, particularly halls or whatever, would be made available to the wider community.
It is the intention of the Department to progress this approved project through the Project Manager Framework, which is designed to enable the accommodation to be provided as quickly as possible and help ease the administrative workload for school authorities in relation to the management and delivery of the projects.
Thank you for that information, Minister, and I know that you have met with that group and the school in the area and have been engaged with the issue, so I welcome that and the further information about the Project Manager Framework. So we will be, I suppose, monitoring it and paying attention to its progress with a view to doing it as urgently as possible. Thanks.