By Joe Barrett
Minister of State at the Department of Finance Seán Fleming said that he met with the Minister for Education Norma Foley recently to discuss some of the key projects in Laois that, he said, “must be addressed as early as possible date”.
Below he sets out the current stage these projects are at.
Kolbe Special School:
Minister Fleming said: “I have highlighted to the Minister the absolute necessity for a brand new school building to proceed. This new school is absolutely essential and is many years overdue. During the general election campaign I stated that this was my number one education priority in Laois because of the specific circumstances of the children who attend Kolbe.”
He said: “The new school is now at the planning application stage and tender documents are currently under preparation. The planning application was lodged in June and Laois County Council have requested further information. I have been in direct contact with Laois County Council to ensure that this planning application is approved at the earliest possible date.”
Abbeyleix National School:
He said: “During the election I said that the unsatisfactory condition of the school building in Scoil Mhuire Abbeyleix would be my second priority in County Laois .
“I already arranged a meeting with the school authorities and the Minister and the engineering staff from the Department have visited the school. Everybody knows of the severe problem with the leaking roof, plumbing and electrical work as well as the inadequate sewage system for the school.
“The Department is examining this matter in terms of a Deep Energy Retrofit Scheme which is a means of bringing an existing building up to the highest most modern standards. This can happen especially when the basic structure of the school such as walls for example are in a satisfactory condition.
Portlaoise Secondary School:
Minister Fleming said: “I have been in contact with the Department to ensure that this new secondary school, Dunamase College will proceed as soon as possible. Due to the large expanding population in Portlaoise and County Laois it is essential that there be a new major Secondary Level School available. Laois Offaly Education Training Board (LOETB) will deliver this project which is currently at preliminary design stage, the site having already been acquired.”
Special Education at Post Primary Level:
“It has been clear to me for some time as a local TD that there has been an emerging major problem in relation to the wholly inadequate special needs facilities at secondary school level in the county.
“Tremendous strides have been made for the provision of special needs support at primary level throughout the county over recent years but this was not matched by a corresponding increase in special needs facilities at secondary level.
“It was inevitable that students in primary schools would be moving to second level education and yet adequate planning was not made for these students with special needs.”
He said: “I am particularly pleased that the Minister for Education Norma Foley has listed as a key priority of hers to proactively cater for special needs requirements with a particular emphasis on post primary level.”
Third Level Education Outreach Facilities:
Minister Fleming said: I have highlighted that there is currently no Third Level Institution in County Laois to the Minister for Education.
“I have asked that as part of future plans that Outreach Facilities be provided in locations in counties where there are no Third Level Institutions at this time. I also raised this with the Department of Further Education and the Department of Public Expenditure and will continue to promote this for County Laois.”
Minister Fleming said that he is also working with and actively supporting a number of other school projects through the county for new, additional, expanded and other education facilities.