For Oral Answer on : 01/02/2022
Question Number(s): 68 Question Reference(s): 4617/22
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education her plans to increase second-level school capacity in east County Cork given the projected increase in population in the area in the coming years; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy may be aware, for school planning purposes, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and utilises a Geographical Information System to anticipate school place demand. Information from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data, school enrolment data and information on residential development activity is used for this purpose. Additionally, Project Ireland 2040 population and housing targets inform my Department’s projections of school place requirements.
Having considered the projected requirements in each school planning area, my Department then makes an assessment of the existing capacity within that particular area and its ability to meet any increased demand.
Where data indicates that additional provision is required at primary or post primary level, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:
·Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,
·Extending the capacity of a school or schools,
·Provision of a new school or schools.
My Department’s projections of post primary school place requirements in East Cork show an anticipated continued growth in enrolments in the short- to medium-term.
However, in response to projected future need and to enrolment pressures in the area, there has been significant capital investment by my Department at post primary schools in East Cork. A new post primary school, Carrigtwohill Community College, was established in 2016. A project to deliver a new, modern 1,000 pupil school building for that school is underway. Additionally, an extension at St. Colman’s Community College has been recently completed and a number of other large school building projects are also in train, delivering expanded capacity at St. Aloysius College, Midleton CBS, St. Mary’s High School, Pobalscoil na Tríonóide in Youghal and Coláiste Mhuire in Cobh.
While my Department is aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional school places in East Cork, it is important to note that where enrolment pressures arise, it may not be as a result of lack of accommodation but may be driven by the following factors:
- Duplication of applications – pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area
- School of choice – pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town/area
- Some towns/areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school they are not available to all pupils
- External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area
My Department is working to establish the true extent of any capacity issues through ongoing discussions with the relevant school authorities. In that context, similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department is engaging with patron bodies, including patrons of schools in East Cork areas, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming years which may necessitate further action to that already in train including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions.
I understand that principals of schools in the area have had a number of meetings to establish an overall picture of school place requirements for the next academic year. My Department will continue to have close engagement with the relevant school patrons and authorities in order to monitor the situation and implement any solutions which may be required.
Additionally, my Department will continue to work to advance the planned and current projects in East Cork and to ensure sufficient places for both mainstream provision and for pupils with special education requirements both for the coming academic year and into the future.