The Department of Education & Skills indicated this week that the building of a new national school in Stonepark on the outskirts of Longford town will “not now proceed”. The school which was at the design stage of planning had been in the pipeline for some time and teachers, pupils and parents held great hopes for the new state of the art facility which would cater for the increasing numbers of pupils attending the national school.
Longford/Westmeath Fianna Fáil Deputy, Robert Troy said this week that questions now needed to be asked as to why the new school “disappeared off the list” and an explanation provided for the reasons that such a decision was taken in the first instance. “Stonepark NS was on a waiting list for a new school and had been at design stage of planning since 2007, Deputy Troy explained to the Leader. “In 2011, the school had been cooperating with the Department building unit in Tullamore about requests they had for profiles, types of special needs children included within mainstream classes and requests for site maps.”
The local TD went on to say that current school numbers at Stonepark were expanding rapidly and the facility was struggling to deal with enrolments. “The school cannot deal with the numbers of enrolments,” Deputy Troy added. “Many children cannot get a place at the school because there is not enough space -160 of the 243 children are being educated in prefabs, that’s 65 percent of the school’s enrolment. In early March, when the school questioned the Department carefully around time-lines it was told that once all the requirements were in place, the new facility would be in place within two years. But when the new lists were announced, the school had disappeared off the list altogether. In a response to the Leader, the Department of Education & Skills said that in light of the current competing demands on the Department’s capital budget, “it is not possible at this time to progress to tender and construction of the project for Stonepark NS in Longford”.
“In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years,” the statement added.
“The five year programme announced in March is focused on meeting those demographic needs and in that context, it is not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. Total enrolment is expected to grow by around 70,000 students between now and 2018 and our priority must be to ensure that every child growing up in Ireland can access a school place,” the Department said.