35 new schools to be built but no cash left for repairs
THE building of 35 new schools and 15 extensions is going ahead next year to cope with the boom in student numbers in areas of major population growth.
But the good news for some schools spells disappointment for others because the new builds are soaking up almost the entire Department of Education construction budget.
There is no money earmarked next year for repairs and maintenance, following the suspension of the Summer Works Scheme and the Minor Works grant because of financial constraints.
The only fund to which schools can apply for assistance is one dealing with emergency cases, which has paid out about €9m to date in 2012.
But Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan said this compared with about €30m per year traditionally provided to maintain existing schools.
She called on the department to ringfence 7.5pc of future capital funding for the maintenance of buildings and said it did not make economic sense to build new schools and extend others while at the same time allowing others to deteriorate.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday confirmed the projects scheduled for construction in 2013, at a cost of €370m. It compares with a record spend of €656m in 2009.
The 2013 projects are part of a five-year school building programme with an overall budget of €2bn.
There will be 22 new schools and 12 extensions at primary level, and 13 new schools and three extensions at second-level, mainly clustered in the extended Dublin commuter belt area, Limerick, Cork and Galway.
The 2013 building programme will deliver over 25,000 permanent school places, almost 21,000 of which will be additional places, and the remainder will replace temporary or unsatisfactory accommodation.
Separately it was announced last month that eight schools will be built under the public private partnership programme in counties Westmeath, Leitrim, Limerick, Galway, Donegal, Wexford and Waterford.
In the face of budgetary cuts, Mr Quinn has made the provision of extra accommodation the focus of the building programme.
He said: "We have to ensure that every child growing up in Ireland can access a place in a classroom."
The baby boom has pushed primary school pupil numbers to their highest level in 20 years.
Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to rise by over 70,000 between now and 2017 – over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post-primary.
At second-level, it will continue to grow up to at least 2024.
Yesterday's announcement is part of the Government's plan to provide more than 100,000 permanent school places over the course of the five-year school-building programme.
The schools being built next year will lead to the creation of about 3,400 direct jobs and 680 indirect jobs.