Written Answers. - School Rationalisation.

31.

asked the Minister for Education if she will make a statement on the forum which she proposes to establish to address the question of school rationalisation; if she will outline its terms of reference; and the way in which it will operate.

As I indicated in my addresses to the ASTI and TUI Conferences on 28 and 29 March last, the dominant issue for the next decade in the administration of the education system will be the rationalisation of school provision. The drop in student numbers evident at primary level will transfer to second level over the next six years with an anticipated loss of some 36,000 pupils. This significant change in the demographic pattern requires careful planning to ensure the optimium and most equitable use of resource allocations.

It appears to me an opportune time for extensive discussions to take place between representatives of all the organisations — managerial, parental and teaching — directly involved with this issue. I intend, therefore, to convence such a forum in my Department if this meets with the agreement of the organisations concerned. This forum should allow for extensive discussion of problems and expressed fears in relation to the future pattern of post-primary school provision and facilitate their resolution.