Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Education and Skills
302. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 375 of 5 October 2021, the part the absence of non-denominational and coeducational schools play in planning the provision of school places in the Killester, Raheny and Clontarf area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49718/21]
303. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 375 of 5 October 2021, if the development of a new school is only dependant on the number of school-age children in an area; if not, the other factors that such a development is dependent on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49719/21]
304. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 375 of 5 October 2021, the process for taking account of the children from non-religious backgrounds, children of minority religions or children who wish to attend a co-educational school in assessing the need for a new school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49720/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 302, 303 and 304 together.
New schools are established by my Department on the basis of identified demographic demand in an area, and only after consideration of the capacity of existing schools to absorb the expected school place demand.
As set out for the Deputy previously, 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.
Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date information on significant new residential development in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes.
Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, be provided through:
- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,
- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,
- Provision of a new school or schools.
The New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG) is an external independent advisory group which was set up in 2011 to advise the Minister on the patronage of new schools. A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required. The patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons.
An Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) provides objective information to parents in the relevant school planning areas to assist them in making an informed choice about their preferred model of patronage and language of instruction for the new school. A prospective patron can choose the school(s) it wishes to apply for and complete an application form in that regard for each school, for submission to my Department. The Department provides details on the OPPS of the school(s) and the list of applicant patrons which have applied for patronage of the school(s). Parents access the OPPS website, which allows them to access the appropriate survey for their area, to input the details of the eligible child(ren) and to select their preferred patron and language of instruction (where applicable). Parental preferences from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of the process.
Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG submits a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations for all such patronage processes are made available on my Department's website.
The requirement for additional school places is kept under on-going review. Additionally, my Department will continue to liaise with Dublin City Council in respect of its review of the Dublin City Development Plan with a view to identifying any potential long-term school accommodation requirements.