Thursday, 28 September 2023
Department of Education and Skills
174. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children in north Kildare who are without a designated secondary school place at present and in each of the past five years, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41932/23]
As the Deputy may be aware,for school planning purposes, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System (or GIS) 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 the Department’s projections of school place requirements.
Having considered the projected requirements in each school planning area, including North Kildare areas, my Department then makes an assessment of the existing capacity and identifies any requirement for additional provision.
While my Department is aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional school places in North Kildare, 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 – where pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area
• School of choice – where pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town or area.
• Some towns or areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school they are not available to all pupils
• External draw – that is, pupils coming from outside the local area
Through engagement with school authorities and patrons, having accounted for factors such as duplication of applications, my Department has established that there is a requirement for increased provision at schools in North Kildare.
My officials are leading ongoing discussions with the relevant school patrons and authorities to put the necessary solutions in place for the 2024/25 and future school years.This includes the use of existing spare capacity, sanctioning of works to existing accommodation, and the accelerated provision of modular accommodation.
Further to these measures, as the Deputy may be aware, the Department is progressing a number of building projectsin North Kildare under the National Development Plan. This includes projects at primary and post primary schools, and includes provision for mainstream accommodation as well as for children with special educational needs.
These projects include recently completed new school buildings in Maynooth and Naas. Additionally, a number of further new school buildings and extensions are at construction or planned, including in Prosperous, Kilcock, Maynooth, Celbridge, Leixlip, Naas and Clane.
As I said, in addition to all these developments, the requirement, for extra school places is kept under on-going review. Additionally, the Department will continue to liaise with the Local Authority in respect of its review of Development Plans with a view to identifying any potential long-term school accommodation requirements.
My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in the area. In relation to school admissions, it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998.
Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.
The Educational Welfare Services (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The local service is delivered through the national network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWO). Contact details are available atwww.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/education-and-welfare/. The specific information requested is not available at this time.