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_______________________________________
For Oral Answer on : 17/10/2023
Question Number(s): 14 Question Reference(s): 44927/23
Department: Education
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
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QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Education further to Parliamentary Question No. 158 of 4 May 2023; to provide an update on his Department’s review of the guidelines of the use of school buildings outside of school hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


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 supports and encourages the use of school buildings for community and recreational purposes, where feasible, and this has remained a core feature of the new 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.

The process of reviewing the 2017 Guidelines for the Use of School Buildings outside of School Hours is now nearing completion.

Part of the review included a school survey to inform the updating of the Guidelines. The survey was issued to patron bodies of a sample of selected primary and post-primary schools for distribution. The survey invited schools to share their views on topics including: whether and how their school facilities are currently used by organisations other than the school, future plans for the use of school buildings and any current barriers encountered regarding the use of school buildings after hours. The responses to the survey were returned and analysed and have informed this review. Further engagement has taken place with the stakeholders and patron bodies on the draft Procedures/Guidelines and the information received from them will allow the Procedures/Guidelines to be finalised.

When the review is  completed, and in consultation with school authorities, the new Procedures will be published and all schools will be notified of the changes.