The process of assessing the need for educational facilities at primary or second level in any given area entails consideration by my Department of all relevant factors, including enrolment and demographic trends, housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places.
My Department is at present concentrating on the areas of major development and population growth, with a view to identifying where the most urgent need for new or additional educational facilities exists, or is likely to arise in the future. As part of this process, officials of the planning and building unit consult regularly with local authorities with regard to development proposals and their implications. Liaison with existing schools is important, also, and these would usually alert my Department where the need for additional accommodation is anticipated.
In the event that the level of development and population growth in an area indicates a likely long-term need for primary or second level educational provision, a decision is made on the means by which that need should be met. Generally, this involves the provision of permanent accommodation in the form of a new school or an extension to existing facilities. Temporary or prefabricated accommodation is normally provided to alleviate short-term accommodation needs.
As the Deputy is aware, since this Government came into office, there have been very substantial increases in the levels of capital funding for school accommodation. The table below illustrates the vast increase in the level of funding for school accommodation since 1997. As a result, there has been a significant improvement in the quality of educational infrastructure at both first and second level.