Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
64. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will report on plans to increase secondary school places in an area (details supplied) to meet the demand of the growing population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57022/21]
My constituency of Dublin Mid-West has an area of huge population growth. Can the Minister report on any plans to increase secondary school places in Clondalkin, Lucan, Rathcoole, Newcastle, Palmerstown, Saggart and Brittas to meet the demand of this growing population?
I thank Deputy Ward for his question. I wish to advise the Deputy that the Department is aware of increasing local pressures and demand for additional post-primary school places in a number of school planning areas, including the mid-west Dublin area.
However, 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 a number of different factors, as the Deputy will be aware. In some instances, it could be duplication of applications where pupils may apply for a place to a number of schools in the area; pupils cannot get a place in their preferred school or school of choise while there are places in other schools in the area; some towns or areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school, they are not available to all pupils; and there is the external draw, with pupils coming from outside the local area. I reference these as sometimes causing specific issues.
The 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 those of schools in Dublin Mid-West, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming years which may necessitate further action to that already in train.
Under Project Ireland 2040, the Department continues to make progress to increase the infrastructural capacity in the schools sector, in order to meet demographic and other demands. It is expected that the enrolment pressures in this area and others will reduce in the short term as such planned additional capacity comes on stream and as demographic demand moves past its peak.
The capital programme details the school projects that are being progressed under Project Ireland 2040. The current status of large-scale projects being delivered under Project Ireland 2040, including projects in the school planning areas in question, may be viewed on my Department's website. In addition, a list of large-scale projects completed from 2010 to date may also be viewed on the website.
The capital programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms, including accommodation for pupils with special educational needs, if required; and for schools where an additional enrolment need has been identified or where an additional teacher has been appointed. Details of schools listed on this programme can be found on the website.
Duplication of applications is a symptom of the problem. Parents in my constituency are finding it increasingly difficult to find a secondary school for their children. Dublin Mid-West is facing significant population growth.
There are areas in the constituency that have seen major development in recent times. For instance, Adamstown and the Adamstown extension have seen a increase not only in their general population but also especially in their youth population. The areas known locally as "the four districts", namely, Rathcoole, Newcastle, Saggart and Brittas, are some of the fastest-growing areas not only in the constituency but also in the State. Clanburris will bring an additional 8,500 homes to our area. Parents usually contact me in the summer looking for assistance to find their children secondary school places, but they are already contacting me now. It is not even Christmas.
Are there any new plans to increase capacity of existing schools in the area?
I mentioned some of those points because they can cause specific issues at different times. Under Project 2040, €8.9 billion will be invested by the Department of Education in the school building programme. On additional school accommodation being made available in Dublin mid-west, it is intended that the following building projects will provide additional capacity in these areas: at St. Joseph's College there is a project for extension, refurbishment to cater for a long-term projected enrolment of 1,000 pupils. It is at stage 3 now. The project at Lucan Community College is for extension refurbishment to cater for a long-term projection of enrolment of 1,000 pupils and two SEN-based classrooms. It is at stage 2B. There is a project for a new school building at Griffeen Community College to provide a long-term projected enrolment of 1,000 pupils and four SEN-based classrooms. There will also be projects at Holy Family Community School and in City West and Saggart, Collaiste Pobal Fóla.
We welcome the initial capacity building because it is really needed. A school that the Minister did not mention - I had hoped she would - is St. Kevin's Community College on the Fonthill Road. For the purposes of disclosure, that is my old school. When we first moved to the area, there was no secondary school. We had to be bused up to Lucan to a building that was not fit for purpose. It had mould and damp. Parents and pupils got into activism. They went out to the media to campaign for a new school. There are concerns in the area that the school has had to fight for everything it has. It is a really good school. There are plans to increase its capacity from 300 pupils to 1,000, as far as I know. We are asking that does not happen on an ad hocbasis, where modular buildings are dropped in here and there but that there is a comprehensive plan for the school so that the students can get the best education possible and the teacher can have the best facilities possible to deliver that.
There are further large-scale projects which will also provide additional school accommodation in the Dublin mid-west area, including at Moyle Park College, Clondalkin, Collinstown Park Community College, Coláiste Cois Life and the school in which, I appreciate, the Deputy has a particular interest, namely, St. Kevin's Community College. St. Kevin's was provided with additional general classroom, specialist subject and ancillary accommodation under the Department's 2021 modular framework to meet additional needs in the current academic year.
All the issues raised by the Deputy in respect of Dublin mid-west are kept consistently under review. Where further resources are needed, we will not be found wanting.