Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD says he has serious concerns following reports that the Government has abandoned 575 school building projects, most of which are required to cater for extra students.
Deputy Byrne made the comments after Minister Bruton set out plans to build 42 new schools, despite not having delivered on previous school building commitments to date. Minister Bruton announced a building programme equivalent in cost to his entire capital budget for a year, not including land costs.
Deputy Byrne said, “It’s astonishing that the 42 school building projects announced today weren’t included in the Capital Plan unveiled by the Government in 2015. The idea that the need for 42 new schools is coming as a surprise to the Department is extraordinary. It points to a lack of planning to meet demographic change and a chaotic process for identifying future education needs.
“What’s even more concerning is the fact that the 575 school building projects previously announced by the Government now seem to be on hold indefinitely due to a lack of available funds. The Government is announcing new plans day in day out, but we aren’t seeing the delivery on the ground.
“These 575 school building projects urgently need to be progressed. Pupils are being taught in substandard accommodation with a 25% increase in the use of prefab classrooms. Minister Bruton clearly needs additional funding to deliver on the commitments that he has made and this is something he needs to raise with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Summer Works Scheme and Minor Works Grant are already under serious pressure due to a lack of funding. Many schools rely on these schemes to keep their doors open.
“No one is denying that these new school building projects are needed. They clearly are, but it’s unacceptable that Minister Bruton is announcing plans without following through with delivery. It’s also concerning that the groundwork clearly hasn’t been done before announcing these projects. No sites have been selected and in many cases we aren’t even sure the wider area where the school will be located. These basic decisions should be made before rushing to make announcements,” concluded Deputy Byrne.