THE DEPARTMENT OF Education expects to spend around €28 million on renting prefab buildings for hundreds of schools next year, matching this year’s expenditure.
Currently, 455 schools are renting prefab accommodation, including 323 primary schools and 123 post-primary schools.
The figures were released to Labour’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, following a parliamentary question by the Dublin Bay North TD.
Ó Ríordáin said it was “incredible” that €28 million was spent on prefabs in 2022 and added: “No child should have to endure their education in a temporary structure, especially during the cold winter months.
These prefabs are not a suitable learning environment, and they fail our children and teachers.
Ó Ríordáin also said that the “Government’s failure to expedite the completion of permanent school sites leaves students and educators uncertain about their learning environment”.
“This uncertainty is unfair and detrimental to the quality of education our children deserve,” said Ó Ríordáin.
In her response, Education Minister Norma Foley called on Ó Ríordáin to “appreciate” the figures within the “context of a rapidly increasing school population combined with arriving Ukrainian children.”
Foley said her “Department’s priority is to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place”.
In this regard, it is sometimes necessary to make use of temporary accommodation in order to meet the accommodation needs of schools.
She said some schools “may require a temporary building in circumstances where a major school construction project is planned” and that this temporary accommodation is removed when the major project is completed.
‘Changing landscape’ of enrolments
Foley also noted that there are “over 1,300 school building projects within the current pipeline across the various stages of planning, design, tender and construction”.
“Maximising the opportunities to achieve value for money involves matching, as best as possible, the accommodation requirement with the appropriate accommodation solution,” said Foley.
She added that the “changing landscape in relation to enrolments, including that of arriving Ukrainian children, means that accommodation requirements can vary locally and regionally and between short, medium and long-term”.
In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson from the Department of Education also pointed to the “context of a rapidly increasing school population combined with arriving Ukrainian children” and the “priority to ensure every child has access to a physical school place”.
The spokesperson added that “school building projects at construction involve an overall State investment of over €1.2 billion” and that there are “200 modular accommodation projects that are very well advanced for delivery or at construction stage”.
The Department spokesperson also noted that the majority of schools using rented prefabricated accommodation are already part of the pipeline of projects under the school building programme.
This article was developed with the Noteworthy team as part of their CLASSROOM TO IMPROVE project. Noteworthy is the crowdfunded investigative journalism platform of The Journal. Find out more here >>