JUST 20 new schools were built last year – less than half of the number constructed in 2008, new figures from the Department of Education show.
Figures supplied to Fine Gael Education Spokesman Brian Hayes in a parliamentary question show that in 2008 a total of 48 new schools were completed, providing 486 permanent mainstream classrooms.
In the same year, 29 large- scale extension/refurbishment projects were completed and these provided a further 104 permanent mainstream classrooms.
But last year just 20 new schools were completed, providing 212 permanent mainstream classrooms.
In 2009, six large scale extension/refurbishment projects were finished, providing 38 permanent classrooms.
The new data showed an “appalling lack of progress”. according to Mr Hayes, who said the Department of Education left millions allocated for school buildings unspent last year and Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe had to hand funds back to the Department of Finance because he couldn’t spend what he was given.
“Schools are crying out for work to start on old buildings and new classrooms. The construction industry is on its knees and is more than able to ramp up construction in schools. The money, we are told, is there within the department.
“So why can’t the minister and his department get on with it?” Mr Hayes asked.
He said two thirds of school projects cleared for construction in early 2009 had not begun and over €100 million had been spent on temporary accommodation over the past three years, most of it on prefabs.
“This is an appalling lack of progress at a time when construction prices are at an all-time low and value for money on capital projects is better than ever.
“Not only are many of the schools across the country falling apart, demographics show that our school-going population is increasing at a rapid rate,” he added.
“It’s high time that Minister O’Keeffe admitted that something is wrong.
“How can his department deliver fewer new schools, classrooms and extensions when according to him there is a 30% drop in prices and the bottom has fallen out of the construction industry?”
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