19. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which the prefab replacement programme to which his Department has committed is on track and meeting the targets on time and in line with the expectations as expressed by the relevant school management authorities at primary and second level throughout the country and in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 14456/18 asked on 29 Mar 2018)
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: This question is similar to the last and relates to the extent to which the programme to replace prefabs is ongoing throughout the country, especially in County Kildare.
Deputy Richard Bruton: As the Deputy is aware, it is my intention to replace all purchased temporary accommodation with permanent accommodation, where the need is established, over the lifetime of my Department’s capital programme from 2016 to 2021. To enable this development, my Department will be carrying out an assessment of the number of prefabs being used in schools to deliver the curriculum. This will also determine whether or not individual prefabs need to be replaced in the context of the long-term accommodation needs of each individual school. When completed, this assessment will quantify the number of prefabs to be replaced. It is intended that this assessment, when finalised, will enable the replacement of such prefabs to commence in 2019. A funding provision of €180 million is being made available from 2019 for this initiative in the programme.
As the Deputy will be aware, it can be necessary to make use of temporary rented accommodation to meet the accommodation needs of schools when an immediate or short-term need arises. For example, a school may require a temporary building in circumstances where a major school construction project is planned. Such temporary accommodation is removed when the major project concerned is completed.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I thank the Minister for his reply. Can I further inquire as to whether particular or specific criteria are to be applied with a view, in the first instance, to taking out the prefabs which are in the worst condition? Is there a plan in place to do that? Will schools whose entire student populations are in prefabs get priority treatment?
Deputy Richard Bruton: Obviously this assessment will be based on prioritising need. It will look at the cases where there is the greatest urgency, but it will also look to ensure that the population requirement will continue to justify permanent construction. It has to make sure that the decision made in each case is the best economic decision for the long term. That will the basis for the prioritisation. As I said, the funding commitment is there, but from 2019 onwards. This year we are continuing to focus on getting additional accommodation to meet the growth in population.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: To refer to a school the Minister will know well, Newtown school in Enfield, the entire pupil body of that school is in prefab accommodation and has been for some years. Will it be possible to identify such schools with a view to treating them with particular urgency, because the degree to which prefabs can deteriorate over a very short time brings an urgency of its own?
Deputy Richard Bruton: I will have to get the Deputy a report on Newtown school. I am not familiar with the particular needs there but I will get the Deputy a report on it.