Minister accused of 'spin' on school plan

 

MINISTER FOR Education Ruairí Quinn has been accused of “over-spinning” and being “disingenuous” in relation to a €1.5 billion school building programme.

The claims from Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Brendan Smith came amid confusion about the resources available to the new five-year programme. There are also claims and counter-claims about how many of the projects are actually “new”.

Teacher union the INTO openly disputed the Minister’s claim the plan would result in 106 new primary schools. Its own analysis shows 17 new schools will be built over the next five years at primary level, or less than four new schools per year. The union said the rest of the projects consisted of new buildings for existing schools currently in prefabs or dilapidated accommodation.

The controversy was triggered after Mr Quinn struggled – on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland– to explain why he was promising 75,000 new school places and a €1.5 billion investment – soon after promising 85,000 places and a €2 billion investment.

Sinn Féin’s Seán Crowe said the answers given by Mr Quinn were, “to say the least, vague and unconvincing. What has changed in four months? It is a case of the Minister getting his sums wrong or have an estimated 10,000 pupils been lost on the way to RTÉ?”

In all, Mr Quinn announced details of 219 new major school building projects. He said these new projects are in addition to 56 major school building projects that he already announced for 2012.

The department says the new projects comprise:

  • 106 new schools at primary level;
  • 65 large-scale extensions at primary level;
  • 43 new schools at second level; 49 large-scale extensions at second level;
  • Eight new special schools and extensions for four further special schools.

Mr Quinn said the Government was prioritising investment in school buildings during these tougher economic times. The investment, he said, will generate 15,000 direct and 3,000 indirect jobs in the five years to 2017.

This is the first time the Department of Education and Skills has published a five-year plan for school buildings. The Minister said this will facilitate schools’ plans to meet local demand for places and will provide greater transparency in the operation of the school building programme.

The plan is a response to the unprecedented increase in pupil numbers. Total enrolment at primary and second level is expected to grow by about 70,000 students between now and 2018. Mr Quinn says 11 per cent of the total school population will benefit from new permanent places delivered during 2012 -2016.

Mr Smith said it was “disingenuous to claim that 275 new schools have been announced for the first time today . . . this Government’s insistence on over-spinning every announcement undermines the value of what is happening with this investment. Minister Quinn has . . . repackaged a number of previous announcements to inflate the overall figure.”

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan noted the new plan involved spending of €300 million per year, about half of what was being spent some years ago. Teachers’ Union of Ireland general secretary John MacGabhann welcomed the initiative but said similar investment must be made in at least maintaining current pupil-teacher ratios.

SCHOOL PROJECTS 2012 SITES FOR NEW BUILDS AND UPGRADES

CARLOW

Carlow Educate Together NS - new school

CAVAN

Carraigabruise NS, Virginia - extension/refurbishment

CLARE

Ennis NS - new school

CORK

Rathcormac NS, Rathcormac - new;

Gaelscoil Uí Riordán, Ballincollig - new;

Gaelscoil Chloich na Coillte, Clonakilty - new;

Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Rochestown (Phase II) - primary - extension/refurbishment;

CORK CITY

Scoil Nioclais, Frankfield, Grange - primary - extension/refurbishment;

Scoil Mhuire, 2 Sydney Place, Wellington Road - post-primary extension/refurbishment;

Ashton Comprehensive School, Blackrock Road - post-primary - new

DONEGAL

St Patrick’s NS, Lurgybrack - extension/ refurbishment;

Gaelscoil Adhamanain, Letterkenny - new

DUBLIN CITY

Inchicore NS, Sarsfield Road, Dublin 10 - extension/ refurbishment;

Stanhope Street Convent primary school - new

DUBLIN FINGAL

Mulhuddart NS - new;

Thornleigh Educate Together NS, Thornleigh Green, Swords - extension/ refurbishment;

Holywell Educate Together NS, Swords - new;

Scoil Chormaic Community Primary School, Clogheder, Balbriggan - new;

Scoil Bhride, Blanchardstown - primary - new;

Scoil Bhride, Blanchardstown - primary - new;

Blanchardstown West Educate Together NS - new;

Ardgillan Community College - post-primary - extension/ refurbishment;

Luttrellstown Community College post-primary – new

Scoil Choilm, Diswellstown, Porterstown - primary - extension/refurbishment;

DÚN LAOGHAIRE-RATHDOWN

Senior College, Dún Laoghaire, Eblana Avenue, Co Dublin - post-primary - extension/ refurbishment;

Holy Trinity NS - new;

GALWAY

Scoil Náisiúnta Uachtar Árd, Oughterard - new;

GALWAY CITY

Tirellan Heights NS, Headford Road, Galway - extension/ refurbishment;

Coláiste Iognáid SJ, Bothar na Mara - post-primary - extension/refurbishment;

KILDARE

Scoil Phadraig, Ballylinan, Athy - primary - new;

LAOIS

Portarlington Convent NS - extension/refurbishment

LIMERICK

Kilfinane NS - new

LIMERICK CITY

Ardscoil Ris, North Circular Road, Limerick - post-primary - extension/refurbishment;

St Munchin’s College, Limerick City - post-primary - extension/refurbishment

LONGFORD

St Matthew’s NS, Ballymahon - extension/refurbishment;

Edgeworthstown NS - extension/refurbishment

LOUTH

St. Francis’s NS, Dundalk - new

MAYO

Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet - extension/ refurbishment

MEATH

SN Realt na Mara (Boys) Mornington - primary - new;

SN Realt na Mara (Girls) Mornington - primary - new;

Dunshaughlin Community College - post-primary - extension/ refurbishment

SOUTH DUBLIN

St Mary’s NS, Airlie Heights, Woodlawn, Lucan - extension/refurbishment

Gaelscoil Eiscir Riada, Lucan - new

Ballycragh NS - new

TIPPERARY

Scoil Mhuire Presentation Secondary School, Ballingarry - extension/refurbishment

WATERFORD CITY

Gaelscoil na Deise, Grace Dieu Road, Waterford - new;

Waterford Educate Together NS - new

WICKLOW

St Catherine’s Special School, Newcastle - new

Public Private Partnership schools anticipated to proceed to construction in 2012

DONEGAL

Coláiste Ailigh, Letterkenny - post-primary - new

GALWAY

Doughiska primary school - new; Doughiska post-primary school - new

LEITRIM

Ballinamore Community School - post-primary - new

LIMERICK

Doon post-primary - new

WATERFORD

Tramore post-primary - new

WESTMEATH

Athlone Community College - post-primary - new

WEXFORD

Gorey Community College - post-primary - new