For Written Answer on : 20/06/2023
Question Number(s): 293 Question Reference(s): 29072/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education to outline the data her Department considers when projecting second level school place requirements; how often this data is reviewed; if such data has highlighted the need for an additional second-level school in the east Cork area in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I wish to advise the Deputy that in order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit and school enrolment data, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise and where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.
The level of demand volume across school planning areas with an increasing net requirement ranges from small to medium increases that are likely to be accommodated by existing schools through to significant projected growth that may require additional provision. 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 is aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional school places in a number of school planning areas (SPA’s) including the school planning areas around East Cork.
Where capacity issues 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 there are not available to all pupils
- External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area
My Department’s main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in the area. In relation to school admissions, it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998.
Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.
Similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department is engaging with patron bodies around the country to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming year(s) which may necessitate action including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions.
New schools are established by my Department on the basis of identified demographic demand in an area, and only after consideration of the capacity of existing schools to absorb the expected school place demand.
Additionally, my Department will continue to liaise with the local Council in respect of its review of the Development Plan with a view to identifying any potential long-term school accommodation requirements.