Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Education and Skills
256. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 435 of 1 June 2021, if there has been further progress in advancing a building project at a school (details supplied) in view of the concerns of the wider school community regarding delays in having this much-needed additional and upgraded accommodation provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38892/21]
As the Deputy is aware, the long-term accommodation needs of the school in question have been identified and agreed with the school management authority.
The brief for building project is currently being developed by my Department's Professional and Technical staff and once finalised will be issued to the school authority for delivery in the earliest possible timeframe.
257. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans to address the shortage of school places in the areas of Newbridge and Kildare town; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38893/21]
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, using data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit and school enrolment data, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise and where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.
The most recent analysis undertaken by my Department projects that over 60% of the 314 school planning areas at primary level have stable or decreasing projected enrolments for the period to 2024, whereas some 90% of the school planning areas at post-primary level are anticipated to have increased enrolments for the period to 2027.
The level of demand volume across school planning areas with an increasing net requirement ranges from small to medium increases that are likely to be accommodated by existing schools through to significant projected growth that may require additional provision.
Where data indicate 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.
Where capacity issues 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
Until these issues are discussed with the relevant school authorities the true extent of any capacity issue will only become known. Similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department engaged with patron bodies, including in the areas in question, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming year(s) which may necessitate action.
Department is aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional post-primary school places in a number of school planning areas (SPAs) including South Kildare.
There are a number of building projects planned for South Kildare including the following:
- Curragh Post Post-Primary School - It is intended that significant additional capacity to address this demand will be provided by the planned new 1,000 pupil building for the existing Curragh post primary school. The school has an enrolment of 145 pupils in 2020/21. As the Deputy may be aware, a new site is required for the replacement Curragh post-primary school. The project is also proposed to address demographic need in the Kildare/Curragh/Newbridge school planning areas. Officials in my Department are presently in advanced negotiation with a landowner in respect of the acquisition of a suitable site to cater for the permanent needs of the previously announced 1,000 pupil post primary school that will serve the Kildare/Newbridge/Curragh school planning areas. My Department also continues to work closely with officials from Kildare County Council in order to progress the transaction, under the Memorandum of Understanding between my Department and Local Authorities for the acquisition of school sites with a view to securing a suitable site for this school. Should agreement on the proposed acquisition be reached, the process will advance to the conveyancing stage when draft contracts are prepared and legal due diligence is undertaken in respect of the proposed transaction. It would be expected at that stage that the project to deliver the new school accommodation can simultaneously progress to architectural planning stage. As this negotiation is live and given the commercial sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this time.
- St Conleth's Community College have agreed to enrol an additional 1st year class for the 2021/22 school year and the Patron has agreed to the expansion of the school to cater for a total capacity of 1,000 pupils. This school has an enrolment in 2020/21 of 588 pupils.
- The accommodation brief for the major project for Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen has also been increased to cater for a 1,000 pupil school to provide for increased demographic growth. This school has an enrolment in 2020/21 of 838 pupils in 2020/21.
- Patrician Secondary School Newbridge – the accommodation brief for this school has increased to 1,000 pupils to provide for increased demographic growth. This school has an enrolment in 2020/21 of 903 pupils.
258. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the immediate steps that are being taken to ensure the provision of a school place as close as possible to the family home suitable to meeting the requirements in the case of a child (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38983/21]
259. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the efforts that are being made to ensure the provision of an appropriate educational place for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38984/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 258 and 259 together.
I can confirm to the Deputy that the relevant support services, including NEPS and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) recently met with the parents in this case. All involved are working towards ensuring that the student can access a suitable placement as soon as possible.
I can also assure the Deputy that the NCSE will continue to be available to support this family throughout this process.