For Written Answer on : 05/07/2023
Question Number(s): 92 Question Reference(s): 32854/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 293 and 301 of 20 June 2023, 79 of 24 November 2022 and 101 of 11 October 2022, if she has been made aware that there is still a sizeable number of students in east Cork who have not been offered a first-year place in a second-level school for the coming school year; if she will make further resources available to enable schools to enrol these students; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy may be aware, for school planning purposes, the Department of Education divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System (or GIS) 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 the Department’s projections of school place requirements.
Having considered the projected requirements in each school planning area, the 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.
While my Department is aware of enrolment pressures and demand for additional school places in some areas, 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’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.
My Department is aware of pressures in the Midleton Carrigtwohill School Planning Area and is working to establish the true extent of any capacity issues across the SPA through ongoing discussions with the relevant school patrons and authorities.
Engagement began in October 2022 with a view to getting a clear picture of the number of unique additional places required. We are reliant on getting clear data from the schools in a prompt manner and are continuing to engage with the schools and patrons. Officials from my Department will be addressing the issue with each of the patrons this week with a view to finding a workable solution to ensure no student is without a place for September 2023.
This close engagement will allow my Department 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.
The Educational Welfare Services (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The local service is delivered through the national network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWO). Contact details are available at http://www.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/education-and-welfare/