Wednesday 20 February 2019

€450m school-building plan targets fast-growing areas

Pupils at Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork, staged a scene from hit movie Frozen last week to protest about the lack of progress on school funding. Picture:Clare Keogh
Pupils at Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork, staged a scene from hit movie Frozen last week to protest about the lack of progress on school funding. Picture:Clare Keogh
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Most OF the schools being built next year will cater for young children in fast-growing communities.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan has announced a spend of €450m on next year's school building programme, including €280m on 70 major projects.

Among the major works are 44 new schools at primary level as well as 11 extensions, along with five new second-level schools and eight extensions and two special schools.

Projects have been announced for all but three of the 26 counties, with Kerry, Mayo and Sligo on the western seaboard, where many schools are losing numbers, not featuring on the 2015 list.

Most of the focus is on Dublin and its extended commuter belt, such as counties Louth and Wexford, as well as other major urban centres such as Cork and Galway.

Overall, more than 27,800 permanent school places - including 23,700 extra places - will be created next year to cope with rising enrolments as a result of ongoing high birth rates.

Schools at both primary and second-level will see significant increases in pupil numbers in coming years.

Total enrolment in primary schools is expected to rise by over 44,000 between now and 2017, while at second-level the increase will be in the order of 25,000. Enrolments in primary schools will peak by 2020, while at second-level they will continue to rise until at least 2026.

A €2.2bn five-year capital investment programme was launched in March 2012 with the target of creating more than 100,000 permanent school places over five years.

As well as new schools, other projects will see the replacement of temporary or unsatisfactory accommodation.

Ms O'Sullivan said her "primary aim is to ensure that there are sufficient school accommodation places in place in the education system to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place".

Next year's building programme will support about 3,000 construction-related jobs and more than 500 indirect jobs in 2015.

It means that 196 major school projects will be on site next year including projects continuing from 2014. A total of 42 major school projects have reached substantial completion in 2014.

The minister said that as 2015 progressed, projects scheduled to begin building in future years would be assessed to see if they were ready to go to construction earlier than planned, and if there is financial scope to do so.

The announcement was given only a cautious welcome by Gaelscoil de hIde in Fermoy, Co Cork, which said its inclusion on the list was "meaningless unless the process gets moving and fast - currently we don't even have a site on which to construct a new school".

The theme of last week's protest at Gaelscoil de hIde was "frozen", reflecting the view of the school community that the project was "frozen in time".

Irish Independent

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