Written answers

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Department of Education and Skills

School Enrolments

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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109. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to a significant shortfall in available school places for both junior infants in primary schools and first year students in secondary schools in Greystones, County Wicklow; and her plans to review the matter. [37351/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to advise the Deputy that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998.  In schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary.

The selection process used by schools and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, it may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in their school of first choice.

In accordance with the provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, all schools have drafted new policies to be published on the school’s website.

The act requires schools to clearly set out their selection criteria for application in the event of oversubscription, in their admission policies. The criteria to be applied by schools and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves.

Further information on the new admission process is available on the Department’s website at www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/School-Enrolment.

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 (GIS). The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit Data from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department's own school enrolment databases, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise.

The process has been strengthened this year through three specific initiatives:

1. Enhanced engagement with local authorities in relation to the information on residential development incorporated in the analysis process;

2. Additional engagement with patron bodies in relation to their local knowledge on school place requirements, Education and Training Boards, Diocesan offices and national patron bodies such as Educate Together, An Foras Pátrúnachta etc. can also be an important source of local knowledge. This will add to information also provided to the Department by local authorities or individual schools. 

3. Utilising the information gleaned from schools under the national inventory of school capacity completed by individual schools last year as part of POD, P-POD returns process.

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.

As the Deputy will be aware, since April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 45 new schools over the 4 year period 2019 to 2022. This included a new primary school, Greystones Community National School, which was established in 2015.  A new post-primary school, Greystones Community College opened in Greystones for the 2020/21 school year as a regional solution for the Kilcoole and Greystones area. 

The following post-primary schools serve the Greystones School Planning Area:

- Temple Carrig Secondary School, Greystones – this is a co-educational school with capacity for 750 pupils and was established in 2014.

- St. David’s Secondary School Greystones is a co-educational school and a major building project to expand the school to cater for 750 pupils commenced on site in October 2020. This project is expected to be completed in 22 months i.e. by July 2023.

- Greystones Community College – this new school was established in September 2020. The proposal is to provide permanent accommodation for 1,000 pupils when the school is fully developed. Discussions are ongoing with the landowner of a designated site at Charlesland, Greystones with a view to acquiring the site to construct the new school. 

Greystones Community College opened its doors to 64 first year pupils in September 2020 in interim accommodation in Greystones Lawn Tennis Club. My Department is looking at all potential options in the area in the short and medium term ahead of the school’s move to its designated permanent site in Charlesland, Greystones. This will include the provision of appropriate temporary accommodation, including specialist rooms, as quickly as possible as the current school year progresses. My officials will continue to work closely with Kildare Wicklow ETB and the school to ensure that the needs of the school community are met. 

In addition, there is the existing school in the adjacent Kilcoole School Planning Area, Coláiste Craobh Abhann, which currently has accommodation for 750 pupils and for which there is a major project approved to expand the school to 1,000 pupils. This project is in early architectural planning and is being delivered by the National Development Finance Agency. Additional temporary accommodation was approved in 2019 to cater for expanding enrolments pending completion of this extension. It is open to the school's patron to submit an application for additional interim accommodation to my Department should this be required.

Similar to the process adopted for September 2020 readiness, the Department will be engaging further with patron bodies shortly in advance of identifying specific September 2021 capacity pressure points priorities which will necessitate specific action. 

In a ‘normal’ year, addressing the increase demands for school places, whilst challenging, is manageable – generally through utilisation of existing spare capacity within schools, rental, temporary accommodation or other short term measures pending the delivery of permanent accommodation. 

My Department is concerned to ensure that all pupils in the Greystones school planning area have access to a primary or post-primary school school place in September 2021.

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