Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Irish Language

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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270. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no Irish language secondary school available for persons in the Dublin Rathdown area for parents that would like their children to continue their education through Irish; if she will take steps to address this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17198/22]

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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271. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she plans to open more Irish language secondary schools in the greater Dublin area in order to provide more options for parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17199/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

As part of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, my Department has committed to creating opportunities for expanding Irish-medium education outside the Gaeltacht in the context of the announcements since April 2018 on the establishment of 47 new schools from 2019, which affords particular consideration to the establishment of Gaelscoileanna, Gaelcholáistí, and Aonaid Lán-Ghaeilge as part of the patronage process for new schools.

New schools are established by the Department on the basis of identified demographic demand in an area, and after consideration of the capacity of existing schools to absorb the expected school place demand.

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, the Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date information on significant new residential development in each area.

The Department additionally consults with school patron bodies in order to identify areas with pressures on enrolments.

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.

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. The Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to parents which will allow them to make an informed choice about their preferred model of patronage as well as language of instruction, i.e. Irish or English, of new schools. Parental preferences, as well as other considerations such as the extent of diversity of provision in an area (including Irish-medium provision), are key to the decision-making process and to whether at post-primary level a school would take the form of an Irish-medium Gaelcholáiste or whether, if English-medium, the school would include an Irish-medium unit or “Aonad”.

Most new post-primary schools must have a student enrolment capacity of 600 – 1,000 students. A lower threshold of 400 students may apply to Gaelcholáistí, having regard to the alternative of establishing an Aonad within a school.

Regarding the Dublin Rathdown area referred to by the Deputy, in 2014 a new Gaelcholáiste - Gaelcholáiste an Phiarsaigh was established in the Ballinteer/Stepaside area (along with Coláiste Ghlór na Mara, Balbriggan, North Dublin). The year of establishment, patronage model and language of instruction have yet to be determined for the new post-primary schools announced to serve the following school planning areas in the general South Dublin area: Dublin 2_Dublin 4 and Sallynoggin_Killiney_DLR/Cherrywood.

While it is expected that the existing Gaelcholáistí in the general South Dublin area between them have sufficient school places to accommodate the level of demand identified as part of the recent patronage processes in the short term, given the number of new gaelscoileanna which have opened in recent years or are planned to open in this area, my Department is keeping the position under active review as these schools grow and the number of sixth class pupils in gaelscoileanna increases.


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