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Teachers dispute Quinn’s claims on new €1.5bn schools programme

The INTO says only 17 of the primary schools being built under the new programme are actually new; the rest are replacements.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated, 13.33

THE TRADE UNION representing the country’s primary school teachers has disputed Ruairí Quinn’s claims that a new programme of school-building announced this morning will mean 106 new primary schools.

The minister for education had this morning announced details of a €1.5 billion school-building programme that will create school places for 80,000 children.

The major five-year programme will also create 15,000 construction jobs, as well as several thousand teaching posts.

Quinn said the programme will include the construction of 106 new primary schools and 43 new secondary schools, with the latter schools catering to an average student population of around 1,000 pupils each.

The programme will also see 65 extensions to existing primary schools, and 49 extensions to secondary institutions. The construction of eight new special schools is also included in the programme.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, however, says only 17 new schools are being built under the new programme – with the rest of the schools instead replacing existing schools, and not the construction of new ones.

INTO general secretary Shiela Nunan said the Department of Education had announced the construction of 20 new primary schools last June – and had last week added a caveat that some of these constructions were under review.

“Today’s announcement is good news for the schools concerned although many will still have to endure unsatisfactory buildings for several more years,” Nunan said.

Quinn said the investment would ensure “that every child growing up in Ireland can access a physical school place”.

“Our programme unveiled today means that schools and parents will be able to plan much better for their children’s education at a time when enrolments at both primary and second level are rising dramatically.”

Estimates suggest that the number of Irish residents of school-going age will increase by around 70,000 between now and 2018, bringing the primary school population up by over 45,000 to 509,000, while the secondary ranks will swell to 351,000.

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Quinn added that the funding for the schools was guaranteed from his Department’s capital budget of €2.2 billion for the next five years – and that any projects which stalled for planning reasons, or other hindrances, would be replaced.

The rest of the capital spending will be on refurbishments and incremental work to schools which will continue to allow for a larger school population.

Delivery of each school project will be overseen by VECs, the Office of Public Works and the National Development Finance Agency where appropriate, though decisions have not yet been made on the patronage of each school.

Quinn hailed the co-operation as “joined up thinking between Government departments and agencies in order to maximise the number of projects we deliver with best value for money for the tax-payer.”

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