Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Enrolments

Photo of Mark WardMark Ward (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
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239. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the options that are available to the parents of a child (details supplied) who have been unable to get a secondary school place for their son in the Lucan area. [23924/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy may be aware, for school planning purposes, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and utilises a Geographical Information System to anticipate school place demand. Information from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data, school enrolment data and information on residential development activity is used for this purpose. Additionally, Project Ireland 2040 population and housing targets inform my Department's projections of school place requirements.

Having considered the projected requirements in each school planning area, my Department then makes an assessment of the existing capacity within that particular area and its ability to meet any increased demand.

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.

My Department's projections of post primary school place requirements in Lucan show an anticipated continued growth in enrolments in the short- to medium-term.

However, in response to projected future need and to enrolment pressures in the area, my Department currently has 3 major projects underway for schools in this School Planning Area as follows:

- St. Joseph’s College Lucan – project at stage 2b – project is extension/refurbishment to cater for 1,000 pupils (current enrolment of 904 pupils in 2021/22)

- Lucan Community College – project at stage 2b – project is extension/refurbishment to cater for 1,000 pupils (current enrolment of 926 pupils in 2021/22)

- Griffeen Community College – project at stage 2b – project is new school for 1,000 pupils. There has also been additional interim accommodation approved for this school for 2022/23 (current enrolment of 286 pupils in 2021/22)

While my Department is aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional school places in Lucan, it is important to note that where enrolment pressures 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

My Department is working to establish the true extent of any capacity issues through ongoing discussions with the relevant school authorities. In that context, similar to the process adopted in advance of the current academic year, my Department is engaging with patron bodies, including patrons of schools in Lucan, to identify particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming years which may necessitate further action to that already in train including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions.

I understand that principals of schools in the area have had a number of meetings to establish an overall picture of school place requirements for the next academic year. My Department will continue to have close engagement with the relevant school patrons and authorities in order to monitor the situation and implement any solutions which may be required.

Additionally, my Department will continue to work to advance the planned and current projects in Lucan and to ensure sufficient places for both mainstream provision and for pupils with special education requirements both for the coming academic year and into the future.

It is the responsibility of my Department to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. Parents can choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to draft, publish and implement a school admission policy in accordance with the Education Acts 1998 to 2018. In schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary. This may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in their school of first choice.

The admission policy, including the selection criterion to be used where the school is oversubscribed, must comply with the Education Acts 1998 to 2018, be non-discriminatory and be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Where a board of management make a decision to refuse admission, a parent/guardian can appeal that decision under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998, and an independent appeals committee will be appointed to consider the appeal. The role of the section 29 hearing committee is to examine the application for enrolment and consider if it was correctly processed by the school, in accordance with the school’s Enrolment Policy. The section 29 appeals committee cannot consider matters that are not provided for within the school’s Enrolment policy. If a parent/guardian considers that a school has erred in their processing of an enrolment application, a section 29 appeal committee can examine how the application was processed by the school and identify if the school did not follow its Enrolment policy. In cases where an error occurred the section 29 appeal committee will consider if the error had a material effect on the application. Where an error had a material effect on an enrolment application, the section 29 appeal committee can direct the school to enrol the student or adjust the students ranking on the waiting list. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a student, except in circumstances where an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 has been allowed and the appeals committee directs that the school admit the child concerned.

A section 29 appeal must be made no later than 63 calendar days from the date of the school’s decision to refuse admission.

It is important to note that if refused admission is due to the school being oversubscribed, and the parent/guardian wishes to appeal this decision they must first make a written request to the school seeking a review of the board of management’s decision. This request for a review to the board of management is time bound and must be made within 21 calendar days from the date of the decision by the school to refuse admission to the child.

If refused admission is for a reason other than the school being oversubscribed, a parent/guardian may, but are not required to, request a review by the board of management within 21 calendar days from the date of the decision by the school to refuse admission to the child. Where a parent/guardian has been refused admission for a reason other than the school being oversubscribed and chooses not to seek a review by the board of management they may make an appeal to an independent appeals committee no later than 63 calendar days from the date of the school’s decision to refuse admission.

Full details on the section 29 appeals process for refused enrolment are available on the Gov.ie website at the links below:

www.gov.ie/en/publication/8248c-appeals-in-relation-to-refusal-to-admit-a-student-due-to-a-school-being-oversubscribed/

www.gov.ie/en/publication/31c4f-appeals-in-relation-to-refusal-to-admit-a-student-for-a-reason-other-than-the-school-being-oversubscribed/

In addition, Tusla Education Support Services (TESS) the Educational Welfare Service is the legal body which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school placement for their child. Contact details for TESS are available at the following link www.tusla.ie/tess/get-in-touch/ or by email at tessinfo@tusla.ie

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