Cork East Fine Gael TD, David Stanton secured a Dail debate regarding the severe shortage of second level school places in East Cork. Deputy Stanton secured a commitment from the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn TD that he would meet him to discuss how the shortages in school places can be addressed.
“The large population growth in the Midleton area in recent years had led to a huge demand in school places. Analyses I carried out in 2007 and 2010 shows that there were 1,500 extra pupils in local primary schools in just three years. Figures from the Department of Education show that as many as 64 new primary classrooms will be needed by 2015 and 77 new classrooms required by 2020. Both Midleton Educate Together and the Gaelscoil desperately need new premises.
“However, while it is clear that primary school enrolments are steadily increasing it is the post primary sector which is seriously under pressure to meet demand for places. Secondary schools in Midleton and Carrigtwohill are full, and schools in Fermoy and Cobh are also under pressure. Many of these schools have applied to the Department for extensions and improved facilities but these have not yet been approved.
“The Department of Education has estimated that almost 400 extra second level school places will be needed by 2015. Longer term estimates show that one new secondary school will be needed in Midleton, one if Carrigtwohill and one in Cobh by 2020. It is clear that in the long term Carrigtwohill needs a new co-educational school and I understand that the VEC are examining this option at the moment. Second level provision in Midleton is also an urgent issue and I hope that something can be done to address this.
“I am regularly contacted by parents who have children on waiting lists for secondary school and are very concerned. It was a recurring issue on the doorsteps during the general election campaign also. People are very worried. Minister Quinn described the shortage of second level places as a “serious crisis”. I hope to work with him to address this crisis and secure viable long-term solutions to second level schools places in the East Cork area.
Contact: David Stanton TD, 29 St Mary’s Road, Midleton, Co. Cork
Note to Editors: transcript of Dail adjournment debate below.
Adjournment Debate – East Cork Second Level Schools
Wednesday, 30th March 2011
Deputy David Stanton: I thank the office of the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise the matter this evening and I also thank the Minister for coming in to respond. I live in Midleton in east Cork. The county development plan some years ago envisaged the reopening of the rail link to east Cork and led to a major increase in housing for people living in the area. The census figures for 2002 and 2007 show population increases of almost 26% in the Midleton area alone over those five years. This has led to a huge demand for school places, with 1,500 extra primary school pupils in just three years. While that is a major issue in itself, this evening I want to focus on post-primary provision, which is urgent and serious.
The Department of Education and Skills analysis of primary school enrolment in 2009 showed significant differences between the numbers in sixth class and junior infants at some schools. In 21 schools there are double the number of pupils in junior infants that there are in sixth class. The projections show that this increase will necessitate as many as 64 new primary classrooms by 2015 and as many as 77 by 2020. However, at second level the schools are full as we speak. The Department’s figures indicate that 394 additional second level places will needed by 2015, which is almost 400 places in just four years time. I know officials in the Department are linking up with schools at the moment and doing their very best to address the situation but I want to encourage the Minister and his officials to redouble their efforts because as of now parents are extremely worried. They can see the trend in the numbers and know the schools are full. They are concerned that in a few years time pupils will be put on waiting lists and will have nowhere to go. One solution would be to allow the Christian Brothers secondary school in Midleton to expand. St. Mary’s, the girls’ secondary school is also seeking an increase in accommodation as it is very caught for space.
In the long term Carrigtwohill needs a new coeducational second level school and I understand the VEC is investigating that option. I encourage the Minister to support that proposal. Cobh is under pressure and Glanmire had a waiting list last year. Fermoy is under pressure, and Midleton and Carrigtwohill are full as we speak. We need to start looking further down the road and a medium-term solution would be a new second level school in Carrigtwohill. St. Aloysius girls’ school in the town is very successful, but has a waiting list of approximately 120. I ask the Minister to make this a priority. Some 400 extra places will be needed in four years time and those pupils will have nowhere to go. I spoke to one of the principals today and he advised me that his school had 562 pupils in September 2010. By September 2016, he projects having 844 and the school is full as we speak. This matter is urgent and we know how long it takes to plan and develop new buildings and extensions.
I hope the Minister has something positive to say – I know he will. I commend the officials who I know are working hard on the matter at the moment.
Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to address the provision of second level school places in Midleton and the east Cork area. I have a script and I will give it to the Deputy, but let me talk to him frankly.
We have a serious crisis in education. There is a population cohort coming through our primary school system that is now beginning to manifest itself in the second level area. I would love the Deputy’s support to identify areas of need. I was in the Cork East constituency just before the general election. I met people in Midleton and elsewhere to discuss the problems. I would be most willing to entertain any creative ideas the Deputy has. It is a real problem. In 2008 we had the highest birth rate since 1898 when families were much larger. Those youngsters who started to impact in the primary school system are now coming into first year and parents who can do the sums recognise exactly what the impact will be. I would like to sit down with the Deputy and perhaps the other Deputies in the Cork East constituency. For all sorts of reasons that the Deputy knows better than I do, because of the geography and location there is much greater growth on the east end of the Cork city area than there is on the west.
I will make sure the Deputy gets the text of the prepared reply, but it is in official Civil Service-ese. I would much sooner talk to him as one colleague to another to see how we can get more with less and how can we with small amounts of money expand some of the existing schools. However, new schools are needed. The Department estimates that 12 post-primary schools will be needed nationwide between now and 2016 each with 800 to 1,000 pupils. We have never been faced with those kinds of numbers and we have no model school design framework, which is something we will need to do. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter and he should feel free to come back to me on it.