Tuesday 18 September 2018

Pupils will wait five years for PE halls despite €11.9bn school-building programme

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The €11.9bn education building programme being announced by the Government today does not provide for the widespread building and modernisation of school PE halls for at least five years.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was particularly pleased that it provides for investment in PE halls to ensure that all post-primary students can use state of the art facilities.

However, although PE is now a Leaving Cert subject and there are societal concerns about teenagers not being active enough, that commitment will only be realised in the second half of the decade-long programme.

Mr Varadkar is launching the building plan alongside Education Minister Richard Bruton and junior education ministers Mary Mitchell O'Connor and John Halligan. All levels in the education system will benefit from the investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years, part of the Project Ireland 2040 national development plan.

One of the flagship projects being announced today is a major development at Dublin City University (DCU) to allow for the enrolment of 3,000 more students.

Alongside the school building programme, there is a commitment to greater certainty over the provision of grants on which schools rely for essential upgrading and maintenance works.

Starting this year, primary schools will receive a €29m minor works grant in either December or early January of each school year, with a commitment to a similar grant scheme at post-primary level over the next decade.

There is also a promise of a Summer Works Scheme every year, with schools being given better lead-in periods for planning and delivering projects. At second level, the 2019 scheme will facilitate laboratory modernisation.

A more coherent approach to eliminating the use of pre-fabs is also pledged - if a school needs an additional classroom and also has a class in a pre-fab, it will be approved for two classrooms.

Overall, the school building budget will be 70pc higher over the period 2018-2027 than it was for the previous decade, rising from €4.9bn to €8.4bn.

Higher education will see an almost trebling of its capital budget over the decade, including €117m for co-funding major strategic projects.

The co-funding of two of these projects includes a pledge of €24m for a Future Tech building at DCU to put the university at the leading edge in relation to the development of skills in new technologies, and allow for 3,000 new student places.

Dublin's proposed new Technological University, which will be up and running as an entity next year, is also getting €7.7m for a new sports science, health and recreation building at its IT Tallaght campus, which will provide the hub for sports science within the new university. The balance of the funding is being provided from IT Tallaght's own resources.

A range of other refurbishment and upgrading programmes at third-level, including projects at Dundalk IT, Limerick IT and Galway Mayo IT, Castlebar, worth a combined €112m, are also being announced today.

The further education and training sector is also getting its own dedicated capital budget for the first time.

Irish Independent

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