Written answers

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Accommodation

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North, Labour)
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127. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of Gaelcholáistí school places currently available across Dublin 1, 7, 9 and 11; the future demand that is anticipated by her Department for Gaelcholáistí places over the next decade; and her plans to increase resource provision to meet that demand in future years. [18703/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The provision of Irish-medium education is a priority for my Department and the Government, and we share a strong commitment to increasing the number of Irish-medium places available and providing suitable accommodation in this regard.

As the Deputy may be aware, new schools are established by my 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, the 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.

Two Irish-medium gaelcholáistí (Scoil Chaitríona and Coláiste Mhuire) provide Irish medium post-primary places in the areas referred to by the Deputy.

A building project for Scoil Caitriona is included in the Department’s school building programme. The project is currently at project brief stage. The project, when completed, will provide for a long term projected enrolment of 500. In the meantime, the Department has provided a grant to the school to provide interim accommodation pending the completion of the school building project. The school’s current enrolment is 491.

A permanent school building for Coláiste Mhuire 60450U was completed in 2012. The building was constructed to accommodate a long term projected enrolment of 350. The school’s current enrolment is 263.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that my Department is currently developing a new policy on Irish-medium education outside of Gaeltacht areas. The key objectives of the policy are in accordance with the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish language 2010-2030 and the Programme for Government 2020 and include considering how opportunities for the establishment of Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáistí can be increased; and developing a clear policy on the establishment of Aonaid lán-Ghaeilge in existing English-medium post-primary schools to strengthen Irish-medium educational provision. An intradepartmental working group was established within my Department in 2021 to progress this important work.

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North, Labour)
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128. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the precise temporary accommodation arrangements to be put in place for the school year 2022-2023 for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18704/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The school to which the Deputy refers will remain in their current interim location for 2022/23 academic school year.


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