I have received confirmation from the Department of Education & Skills that St. Finnachta’s National School building project will now be progressed through architectural planning. The accommodation brief for the project is currently being finalised with on-going contact between the Department of Education and the school authorities regarding the project and in relation to interim accommodation needs.

This is great news for the hard working School Principal, Mr. Gareth Heagney, the Board of Management, parents and pupils of St. Finnachta’s National School. This progress has been achieved following a successful meeting between the school authorities and the School Building Unit in Tullamore on the 24th of January last. The Department of Education acknowledged that St. Finnachta’s is a rapidly developing school with CSO figures confirming that Sixmilebridge experienced a population growth of 28.2% from 2006 to 2011.

In March 2012 when the Five Year School Building Programme was announced, I sought clarification from the Minister for Education that St Finnachta’s would be able to progress through the various stages of planning stage and design, in anticipation of further funding being made available. It is important that the project moves through the next phase as quickly as possible. I will continue to press the case for St. Finnachta’s with the Department and with the Minister for Education & Skills, Mr. Ruairi Quinn.

On a more general point, it is worth noting that in the years ahead, total school enrolment countrywide is expected to grow by around 70,000 students between now and 2018. Second level enrolment is expected to continue to rise until at least 2024. It’s important that the Department of Education takes the proper steps now in order to cater for these growing numbers.