For Oral Answer on : 02/02/2023
Question Number(s): 91 Question Reference(s): 5035/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 947 of 26 April 2022, if her Department has completed the proposed review of the guidelines on the use of school buildings outside of school hours; if new guidelines have or will be issued to schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I wish to thank the Deputy for the opportunity to give an update on the review of my Department’s ‘Guidelines on the Use of School Buildings Outside of School Hours’.
My Department has and will continue to support and encourage the use of school buildings for community purposes, where feasible, and this will remain a core feature of the guidelines.
My Department first published the Guidelines on the use of School Buildings outside of School Hours in October 2017. The purpose of these guidelines was to provide guidance to schools in relation to their current arrangements for the use of school buildings outside of school hours. The Guidelines outline the various scenarios and informs where consent of the Department of Education is required.
The publication of the Guidelines followed a Programme for Government commitment, for the utilisation of primary school buildings for after-school care provision for school age children to offer more options and flexibility to parents, where there is demand for such a service, in partnership with community groups or private providers.
I am committed to reviewing the guidelines and this review will include consultation with the relevant stakeholders, including representatives of schools and other government departments which engage with the community and voluntary sectors. I can confirm preparatory work for the Review commenced in late 2022 and involved officials from my Department beginning a series of engagements with other Government Departments. Further consultation is also planned to take place. The Department also plans to conduct a survey of a sample of schools regarding their experience in engaging with community and recreational groups seeking to use school property. Work on this survey is due to commence later this quarter.
The type of information that will be sought in the survey will include the current use of schools outside of school hours, the types of activities being catered for, whether formal arrangements are in place and if there are charges associated with the use of the facilities.
The feedback received from the discussions with the relevant stakeholders along with the results of the survey will be used to inform the review of the guidelines by my Department. Following the review, and in consultation with school authorities, the guidelines will be updated as necessary and all schools will be notified of the changes.