Congratulations to the Minister for the Success of this Summer’s Building Programme
No Children will be left at the side of the road this year. System building of state-of-the-art accommodation is the way to provide additional school places and is also the answer to sub-standard school buildings in the Irish primary system.
12 New Educate Together schools have opened this week
15 New Buildings provided by the State for Educate Together schools this year
Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together, in welcoming Batt O’Keeffe T.D., Minister for Education and Science, to Lucan East Educate Together National School, stated:
I am delighted to welcome Minister O’Keeffe and his officials to this brand new school today.”
Lucan East ETNS is the fifth Educate Together National School in Lucan and brings the potential Educate Together capacity in the area to over 2,000 primary school places. It is a product of the sustained demand from parents for the Educate Together model of education and the excellent reputation of our existing schools. I would immediately like to pay tribute to the hard work of the Judith Neumann and the parents committee, the great support that this school has had from the Principals, Board of Management, staff, parents and children of our existing Lucan schools and in particular Educate Together’s New Schools Officer, Niall Wall who has guided this project throughout this year. Over the past few weeks, the Principal, Eddie Fox and his growing team of teachers have worked intensively to get everything in place for the children. Throughout, this development has also enjoyed tremendous support from local politicians, the officials of South Dublin County Council and the officials of the Department of Education and Science – many of whom are here today.
2008 marks an impressive step in the history of Educate Together. We have opened 12 new primary schools this week. When these schools are fully developed they will add over 5,200 places to our network. This growth is a reflection of the continued demand amongst parents for the equality based approach to education that our schools provide.
Educate Together schools operate under a legal obligation to provide equality of access and esteem to children, irrespective of their social, cultural or religious backgrounds. The schools deliver an ethical education programme that includes religious education about the main belief systems in world from an explorative and informative perspective. At the same time, Educate Together schools make facilities available to any group of parents who so wish to run faith-formation classes outside school hours. This avoids any situation in which children are separated on religious grounds during the school day, is compliant with equality legislation and fully respects the religious rights of parents, staff and children.
With this popular support, Educate Together has now become a lead provider of new schools. We are delighted to have been able to work productively with the Department of Education and Science to ensure that most of these new schools are opening in state-of-the-art new buildings. This intensive programme has addressed the major crisis of school shortages that emerged in Ireland in 2006 and 2007 in which no less than four emergency schools had to be recognised. This year, we are confident that there will be no major incident of children left at the side of the road with no school to take them and if unforeseen situations emerge, there will be the capacity to address them.
The schools opening this week will bring the total of Educate Together schools throughout the country to 56. The other new schools are in Drogheda, Skerries, Swords, Belmayne, Maynooth, Greystones, Kilcolgan, Carlow, Wexford, Midleton and Carrigaline.
Eight of the new schools are opening in new buildings provided by the Department. In addition, seven existing Educate Together schools are moving into new permanent buildings this year. This building programme has been carried out over the summer under extremely tight schedules and to very high standards. As you will see as you enter this building, the buildings that we have to-date accepted have been finished to high standards, with modern, bright classrooms, very high thermal efficiency, adequate special needs provision, disabled access and are fully wired for ICT and security. They are also configured to allow modular expansion and growth and to accommodate enhanced community facilities.
The new buildings are in Drogheda, Skerries, Balbriggan, Lusk, Swords, Belmayne, Maynooth, Castaheany, Mullingar, Tullamore, Lucan, Monkstown, Greystones, Gorey, Carlow,
We would like to congratulate the Minister and our partners in the Rapidly Developing Areas Unit of the Department of Education and Science, their project managers and their builders for the success of this programme. In this regard, I would like to mention, Project Managers: KSN Project Management Limited , Nolan Ryan. Builders: ABM Construction, Glasgiven Extraspace JV, Pierce Healy Developments, RoanKabin, Sammon Contracting, Western Building Systems. Educate Together has set up a new schools team in its national office to manage this work and have been ably assisted by the principals of the schools and, in particular, 15 volunteer school mangers or chairpersons of boards of management.
Notwithstanding the success of this programme in 2008, there is a necessity for sustained and continuous building programme for new schools over the next five years. The number of children entering our school system is rising dramatically. Recent statistics issued by the Central Statistics Office show that the number of young children in the country is continuing to rise, despite a slow-down in immigration. The National Development Plan (2007-2013) provides for an increase of 100,000 pupils, the equivalent of 3,700 classrooms. Educate Together’s own records are showing a specific burst of demand for school places which will take place in 2010 and 2011. Quite apart from this increase, the demand for Educate Together schools continues to surge. Last month, we have formally notified the Department of our intention to address demand for new schools in 33 areas and we have a further batch of 12 to be sent in this week.
In this light, it is essential that the government continues to invest in this innovative school building programme. Over the past year, impressive development and project management teams have been established. These teams have shown that they have the quality and efficiency to respond to the needs of a rapidly growing population. The programme should also be immediately extended to address the large number of existing schools in inadequate or crowded accommodation. Looking at the quality of this building today and understanding how efficiently it has been constructed, it is clear that there is no longer any justification for the continued use of expensive and wasteful temporary portacabin solutions when schools need new or additional teaching space.
We understand that there are conflicting demands on the State in the current environment, however, together with all my primary education partners, I call on the government to recognise the strategic importance of continuing this programme and the necessity for increased investment in our primary education system.
The education of children to the highest international standards is an core priority for Ireland’s future. Education is the key revenue generator and cost eliminator in our society and must receive sustained and focussed investment – especially in times of strained public finances.