Written answers

Thursday, 4 July 2024

Department of Education and Skills

School Facilities

Photo of Patrick CostelloPatrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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268. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the efforts being made by her Department to ensure play areas in co-educational settings are catered to allow for girls to play, and not dominated by male counterparts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28676/24]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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Investment and expenditure on sports facilities is an element of the overall expenditure and investment in the School Building Programme. The provision of outdoor play areas form part of the accommodation brief for all new school buildings or where a major building or refurbishment project is being delivered for an existing school.

My Department’s Design Guidelines for all new schools provides for outdoor multi use games areas (hard play areas) and the level of play space provided varies with the size of school. The play space also includes specific provision designed to meet the needs of children with special educational needs. For example, a new 24 classroom primary school with Special Education Needs classes is provided with 3 ball courts (1,755m² in total), 2 junior play areas (600m² in total), as well as Secure hard and soft play area (300m²) and a 100m² Sensory Garden. In respect of new post-primary schools, a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school will be provided with 6 ball courts (3,060m² in total) and a 200m² secure hard and soft special education play area. At post primary level, an area may be developed as a practice playing field where site conditions and resources permit.

Outside of school building projects, the multi-annual Summer Works Scheme 2020 onwards included a category for External environment projects, which included playgrounds. Primary schools can also use their Minor Works Grant to fund playground improvements.

The available outdoor area at existing schools varies significantly across the circa 4,000 schools, with each school sitting in its own local context: some in highly urban areas, some in rural locations. Some schools will have large sites, others will be constrained, and there are variances in the level of access to adjacent facilities. The needs and interests of each school's student cohort can also vary. In that context, its the responsibility of each school to ensure that its facilities are appropriately utilised and supervised in a way that meets the needs of all students.

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