Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Department of Education and Science
Question 407: To ask the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Education and Science the reason her predecessor had announced that no further gaelscoileanna will open in 2010; if this action is a U-turn by her Department on policy in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13616/10]
Question 414: To ask the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Education and Science her reason for refusing to open any new Irish medium schools in 2010; the position regarding the seven applications made by founding committees to establish new Irish medium schools in 2010; the criteria on which the decision to proceed with new schools in 2010 was made; her views on the fact that Irish medium schools are oversubscribed and they are turning away children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13676/10]
Question 432: To ask the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the seven applications made by founding committees to establish new gaelscoileanna in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13821/10]
Question 433: To ask the TÃ¡naiste and Minister for Education and Science her views on whether the decision not to open any new gaelscoileanna in 2010 is a breach of parents' constitutional right to Irish medium education for their children, and the State's obligation to protect and nurture the Irish language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13822/10]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 407, 413, 414 and 430 to 433, inclusive, together.
Primary education has a pivotal role in the preservation and expansion of the first official language. The promotion of the Irish language has been an important aim of successive Irish Governments and its place in our education system has been consistently protected. This is reflected in the fact that in recent years a significant number of new gaelscoileanna have been recognised â 17 in total since 2005.
As the Deputy may be aware the Commission on School Accommodation is currently reviewing the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools. When my predecessor announced the commencement of the review he stated that no new primary schools would be established ahead of the completion of the review and the putting in place of revised procedures except in places where new schools are warranted because of increased demographics. The interim arrangements for the recognition of new primary schools, while the review of procedures is underway, provide that the Chairman of the Commission on School Accommodation would advise the Minister in cases where more than one patron expresses an interest in opening new schools in locations where new schools are required to meet demographic trends.
Forward Planning Section has carried out a study of the country to identify the areas where, due to demographic changes, there may be a requirement for significant additional accommodation in future years. This study indicated that for the school year 2009/10 there was no requirement for any new school entities based on demographic changes. This is not to say that certain locations were not experiencing an increase in the school going cohort. Following this detailed analysis it appeared prudent to plan for the establishment of new schools to commence operation in September 2010 to meet increasing demand in certain identified areas. There was detailed consultation during 2009 with all patrons in relation to the areas under consideration. In relation to most of these areas the view of the Gaelscoileanna movement was that there was not sufficient additional demand for all Irish provision to warrant the establishment of a new gaelscoil.
There was a specific application for the establishment of a new gaelscoil in Ratoath, Co Meath. However, after detailed analysis of the increase in pupil numbers for September this year and of the capacity in existing schools it was not necessary to establish a new school to cater for the demographic increase. My Department was satisfied that the existing schools can cater for the projected increase in demographics in September 2010. This situation will be reviewed for September 2011 in light of needs and consultation with the patron bodies.