Priority Questions

Disadvantaged Status

Thomas Byrne

Question:

19. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a fair appeals system for schools not admitted to the DEIS programme; the reason the entry criteria for DEIS are not based on the latest census data; and if work is actually complete on the model for achieving DEIS status. [10618/17]

I wish to ask the Minister about his plans to introduce a fair appeals system for schools that have not been admitted to the DEIS process, a process that seems to be fairly arbitrary. Can he also tell me why the entry criteria for DEIS are not based on the latest census results? Could he tell me whether work on the model for achieving DEIS has been completed because it must be said that it was very vague in all the parliamentary questions to which the Minister replied? It seems that there was a rush to get this out and that it was done on a flawed basis.

A significant benefit of the new identification process for the DEIS plan for 2017 lies in its capacity as a uniform system adopting common criteria and a consistent application across all primary and post-primary schools so it is a completely independent process. The key data sources are the primary online, POD, and post-primary online, PPOD, databases and CSO data from the national census of population as represented in the Pobal HP deprivation index for small areas. This data is combined with pupil data, anonymised and aggregated to small area level to provide information on the relative level of concentrated disadvantage present in the pupil cohort of individual schools.

The CSO small area population statistics used in this process are the most up-to-date available. CSO small area data based on the 2016 national census will be available on 20 July 2017 and will facilitate an update of the identification model from that data.

A further strength of the new identification process is its capacity to be regularly updated and to be responsive to significant change in pupil demographics which might impact on the level of concentrated disadvantage present in a particular school. My Department's primary and post-primary online databases are updated annually by schools and the relevant national census data is updated at five yearly intervals. In this respect, the identification process is subject to ongoing update and this is as it should be.

If any school considers that the outcome of the identification process is inaccurate, it may make an application for a review to verify the information used to assess the level of disadvantage of its pupil cohort to my Department. Information on how this can be done is available on the DEIS section of my Department's website. Verification will include a check of the school data supplied by individual schools and a check of the application of the data to ensure that no administrative error has occurred.

The truth is that the Government did not have its act together on this project. This was rushed out and done without thought and clarity. It is not clear to schools what the criteria are. How many people must be from an area of disadvantage for the school to qualify for DEIS status? There is also a very obvious flaw in whatever the methodology is in that if there are two schools in one catchment area and one takes all the disadvantaged pupils or a large proportion of them and the other takes the other section of society, there is no provision in the criteria to allow for that, so that is an obvious flaw.

There are examples all across the country of different schemes that can look at where people live, which is what the Government purports to do, but that can also look at medical card information, social welfare information, Traveller status and other groups. One secondary school of which I am aware was granted DEIS status but all its feeder schools from the primary level were refused it. That is not logical. That is wrong and is just one of many examples around the country where there are so many anomalies, and I know the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has an interest in this. I put it to the House and the Minister that the anomalies exist because the Government rushed this out, did not wait for the up-to-date census figures and has not set out clearly exactly what the criteria are.

The criteria are published. This has been subject to very rigorous review based on best international practice. I can read out the criteria. They are age dependency within the area; demographic decline or rise; whether parents have primary, secondary or third level education; overcrowding within the families involved; occupational status; lone parent profile; and unemployment rates for males and females. It goes through best practice indicators of deprivation in an area that are available to us. They are far superior to medical card information that is not available on the same basis. We can use it on an anonymous basis so we have the pupil enrolment within the school and can trace back entirely independently without looking any individual's name or address, source the address and identify the small area. It is very rigorous and fair. Where a school has a catchment drawing some children from middle class areas and some from lower class areas, it takes that into account automatically. That is built into it. It is far superior to the sort of data suggested by the Deputy, such as medical cards which are income tested and determined for entirely purposes - in other words, for medical purposes. These are objective standards. We can update them from year to year so that we can see how a school is moving and progressing. Best international practice is being applied and it was in no way rushed. In fact, we took extra time to ensure it was fair and equitable and that people knew how it worked.

It was rushed because, as the Minister said, the Government did not wait until the up-to-date census figures were published. What will happen in July? What the Minister described to me is not the entry criteria for DEIS but the criteria for the Pobal HP deprivation index for small areas. The Minister has not set out clearly for schools how the Department extrapolates that information and applies it to the schools. It is completely disingenuous to tell me how Pobal decides with regard to its small areas. That does not necessarily relate to who is in the schools. It just relates to where these children are from. There could be two schools in a relatively wealthy area but many disadvantaged students could go to one school and many advantaged students go to the other and that is not taken into account. Medical cards are not perfect but the Department uses them for the school transport scheme. They are also used for admitting and facilitating disadvantaged students into third level education so there are lots of examples within the Department where other criteria are used. The Minister has not set out how the Pobal HP deprivation index for small areas is actually applied, how it relates to the school and what percentage of children from particular disadvantaged small areas need to be in the school for it to qualify for DEIS status.

I have indicated very clearly that only schools that meet the highest disadvantaged criteria are being admitted on this occasion. It involves 79 schools and a number of schools have been upgraded so that is less than 2% of all schools in the population. This is based on the cases that are glaring examples of a scheme that has not been open since 2009 and where the indicators of disadvantage in those communities are huge. I deliberately brought them in early so that from next September, I can start to provide support to those schools that have not had the chance to get this support since 2009. That is why I am doing it in this way. Obviously, the new census data will provide us with new information and we will review this and look at other schools that perhaps should be included in the future. We will be refining the model as we go along and will look at other factors. There have been glaring examples of schools that have been left out. We have used an objective set of criteria that is internationally respected and based on the actual pupils in the school and their backgrounds so there could be nothing more rigorous available to conduct matters independently, as we have done.

Disadvantaged Status

Carol Nolan

Question:

20. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of the new DEIS plan, including the resources to be provided for the implementation of the new plan. [10504/17]

DEIS funding has been cut by almost €20 million from €193 million in 2008 to €174 million in 2015. Schools are trying to do more with less money. They are trying to give their students adequate supports in terms of encouraging them to complete their schooling and progress to third level. It is a massive issue. Could the Minister give me the details of the resources that will provided under this plan?

The new DEIS plan for 2017 sets out our vision for future intervention in the critical area of social inclusion in education policy. The overall aim of the DEIS plan for 2017 is to build on the experiences of existing DEIS schools to inform how the education system can help in breaking down cycles of disadvantage through improved identification of schools and allocation of resources to support pupils most at risk. It sets out new targets to improve literacy and numeracy, school completion rates and progression to further and higher education. The plan also has a particular focus on identifying and embedding good practice through the development of pilot projects supported by a school excellence fund, and on encouraging better inter-agency working in and around DEIS schools.

To support the implementation of the actions contained in the plan, I have secured additional funding resources of €5 million under budget 2017 which amounts to €15 million in a full year, bringing the overall DEIS budget from the education sector to €112 million - Deputy Nolan quoted the DCYA and Department of Social Protection funding in her larger figure. In addition, DEIS schools have access to the home school community liaison service and the school completion programme under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the school meals programme operated by the Department of Social Protection. The Deputy will have read that they have also increased their budget to provide more from the Department of Social Protection.

A key element of the DEIS plan is the availability of a new identification process for the assessment of schools for inclusion in DEIS using centrally held CSO and DES data. As noted in the DEIS plan, the implementation of a new objective central data-based model of identifying levels of disadvantage within school populations will be followed by a further programme of work to create a more dynamic model for resource allocation where levels of resource more accurately follow the levels of need identified by the identification process.

The DEIS plan also provides for the establishment of a unit in my Department to facilitate the operation of pilots to promote the clustering of schools to develop innovative practice and for the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure effective evaluation of resource inputs and educational outcomes to provide feedback to schools and inform future policy.

I thank the Minister for his response. It is disappointing in terms of the continually growing numbers of children from disadvantaged households. The European Anti-Poverty Network shows that the level of children in consistent poverty in Ireland rose from 6.3% in 2008 to 11.5% in 2015.

Does the Minister intend to make provision in this year's budget for the full restoration of DEIS funding per capita? Can he indicate the allocation DEIS for the period up to budget 2018? Will the Minister consider the re-establishment of the rural co-ordination service?

There is little mention of the school completion programme. I would like more detail, both in that regard and in terms of the supports the Minister will put in there.

The Deputy will see from the reply that I have provided an increase with €15 million going into the budget, bringing it to €112 million. When one adds to that the home school community liaison service and the school completion programme, which are run through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the increased allocation to the Department of Social Protection, we are increasing funding on all fronts.

The Deputy will be aware of what I did initially. There are 79 new schools coming in for the first time ever and 30 schools are being upgraded from urban band two to urban band one. That will give them access to a greater range of resources. An urban band one school, as the Deputy will be aware, has a lower pupil-teacher ratio. Therefore, those schools - there are 45 of them in total - will get a lower pupil-teacher ratio. They are among the schools that have been identified as the most disadvantaged which were not properly evaluated historically. The old way, which depended on principals gathering information, was arbitrary and some schools completely missed out. Now, without any application, we are identifying the schools of greatest need and we are putting resources into them. This is a genuine effort to ensure that the resource is following the need. We will work with all the partners to refine this process as we go forward but there were glaring examples of 79 schools that deserved support and which we can start to provide from September.

Many cuts were made, including cuts to the guidance counsellor service which, I am sure the Minister will agree, were significant and harsh. I understand the Minister has provided for additional counsellors in the schools, but will he commit to guidance counselling in the ratio of one to 500 pupils for DEIS post-primary schools because the cut in that resource impacted on students? It is a valuable resource and the cut impacted on students' progression to third level. It even impacted on them completing their education at second level.

I need not tell the House that the country faced a crisis of enormous proportions which resulted in cuts in expenditure. The country was close to bankruptcy. As the Deputy saw in the statistics last week, 65,000 extra people are back at work in the past 12 months alone. That results in €1 billion extra for the State to invest in services and that is what we are doing. I got €450 million to put into education and I have tried to allocate that to the greatest needs.

I ensured that we will restore guidance counselling and I insisted that would be in DEIS schools. They will certainly get the DEIS resources. I will seek to invest the funding available to ensure the best impact, particularly for children coming with either special needs or disadvantage in the education system. That is the approach I am taking.

These changes are designed to ensure that the funding follows the areas of greatest need. The pilots and refinements are all trying to encourage innovation within these schools to ensure that where something new is happening, it is impacting on the learning environment for children with special needs who come to school or who are at a disadvantage. We want to ensure we learn from this and it is mainstreamed, and that we can look at it as a way of improving performance through clustering and other initiatives.

Teacher Recruitment

Thomas Byrne

Question:

21. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans regarding the issue of teacher supply; the reason the interim report on teacher supply has not been followed up; and if his attention has been drawn to the details of the secondary teachers who are qualifying and the subjects in which they are qualifying and the impact this inaction has on plans for the education sector. [10619/17]

This question raises another crucially important issue in the field of education, and one that it is fair to say has been completely ignored by the Department over the past number of years. It is hardly mentioned in the various action plans. Indeed, any action the Minister wants to take within the schools field in the Department of Education and Skills is utterly predicated on this issue of teacher supply. Do we have enough teachers coming into the system? Do we have enough teachers in particular subjects? Does anybody in government know what subjects teachers are qualifying in?

Between last September and next September, we will have employed 4,600 extra teachers. We are putting teachers back into our school process and this means that teachers, who were emigrating and not able to find places, are finding places in our schools.

A technical working group was set up by the Teaching Council to formulate advice on teacher supply. The group produced an interim report which was published in July 2015. The interim report identified the significant challenges in developing a model of workforce planning for teachers in Ireland. Among the difficulties identified were gaps in data in the dispersed Irish model, the mixture of pathways into teaching and the significant levels of migration. The group also observed that it is a more complex task at post-primary because there is currently no central mechanism for matching the overall subject need requirements of schools with output from the education providers and, in addition, schools have significant autonomy in relation to the mix of subjects and choices they provide for students.

At that point the group indicated that it was too early to make recommendations. The technical working group continued its work and submitted a final report, which included 14 recommendations, together with some additional advice by the council, to my predecessor, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, in December 2015. The report sets out an approach to planning which scopes out the work necessary to develop a model for teacher supply in the medium to longer term. The approach provides for the identification, collection and validation of data from a range of sources to be followed by a period in which a model for projecting demand and supply of teachers is developed and tested. This work will involve consultation so that there is buy in from relevant stakeholders, including teacher education providers.

The report recognises that the implementation of its recommendations will have significant resource implications, including staffing, and I will not be in a position to progress this aspect in the current year. In the Action Plan for Education for 2017, I have committed to the publication of the report in the first quarter together with the actions necessary for the implementation of its recommendations. This approach will provide further clarity for addressing this complex issue.

The Minister is telling the House that not only his predecessor, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, but he sat on this crucial issue and the Minister and the Department do not have a clue what subjects teachers are qualifying in. When the Minister comes out with his announcements, for example, coding will be the next big thing, languages are very important or we must emphasise STEM subjects, he has no way of knowing that there will be teachers to teach those subjects. Not only is that bad from a national point of view, but there are teachers who continue to be largely unemployed because there are too many teachers in their subject area. There are other subject areas where, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be aware, i meánscoileanna sa Ghaeltacht agus sna Gaelcholáistí, tá sé an-deacair múinteoirí a fháil a bhfuil in ann múineadh trí Ghaeilge. There is no planning whatsoever.

The Minister has admitted he is sitting on a report which recommends action on this but he has not taken any action. That means that everything he has proposed or planned regarding second level in particular is nullified. He must take action and get to grips with this matter.

The Deputy is grossly exaggerating the position. The truth is that the Teaching Council, having looked at this issue, was unable to make a recommendation because of its complexity. It is now seeking to ensure that data sources are identified and that information not being collected is collected. It has indicated the difficulty that exists. There are genuine problems. There is not a database of subject choices. Some people who come into education do subjects and then decide later on to do a master's degree in education. Identifying what is supply and demand work planning is a difficult issue but it does not hold back the introduction of new initiatives.

In terms of new teachers and initial training, we are ensuring that new teachers are fully briefed in the area of new curriculum development. We have continuous professional development, which ensures that teachers who will be teaching a curriculum that is changing will have the support to implement those changes. As has always been the case, work will continue to be done with teachers to make sure they are upskilled to the maximum level possible. We need to examine this because it is not satisfactory that, for example, we do not have enough physics teachers to teach physics.

That is my point. It is not satisfactory that we do not have enough physics teachers but the Minister is doing nothing about it. He is almost putting his hands up and saying he cannot do anything about it. Of course he can. The organisations responsible for training our secondary teachers must be given some directions. Let us be honest. A student with a 2.2 degree in a subject which very few teachers teach is more valuable than somebody with a first class honours degree in a subject that too many teachers teach. That is a fact. The Minister has to get to grips with this issue. It is not good enough to blame the colleges or the Teaching Council. The Minister is responsible for this, and he must get a grip on it because he is the one going around announcing plans to have children trained up in mathematics and coding.

The Minister referred to upskilling. He cannot upskill a teacher who does not exist. That is the problem. Some of these teachers simply are not available. The Minister appears to be sitting on an unpublished report. He tells me there are no recommendations regarding this but I am shocked that the report has been sitting on a shelf for the past year and a half. It is shocking, disgraceful and a shame on the administration of the education system. How will the young teachers who cannot get a job because there are too many of them in a particular subject feel about that, and also the schools that cannot get teachers for other subjects? There is a complete mismatch in that regard and it appears that nothing is being done about it.

We continue to train teachers. We have 1,250 teachers coming out of the colleges at primary level and 1,750 people completing training at post-primary level. We are continually training additional teachers to meet the needs in our schools, but the Deputy is right. We need to refine that model to try to match more closely, for example, the emergence of physics. We have never had enough physics graduates going into teaching. We have set that as an objective to try to get more physics graduates into teaching.

There is no way of doing that.

What the Teaching Council has been asked to advise on is a workforce planning model for the entire teaching profession. Clearly, the data from its analysis of this is simply not available. This is not a matter of an unwillingness to put one's hands on data. This is going back to the origination of data to find new data and then to try to put it into a system that will allow workforce planning. It says that will take years to complete. It is not something that can be done instantly. That is the-----

It would simply be a matter of the Minister directing someone to train a certain number of physics teachers.

I think the Deputy is trying to shout me down.

Disadvantaged Status

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

22. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which schools are judged for DEIS status; if he is satisfied that all schools in disadvantaged areas are receiving the support and resources they need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10503/17]

The shame and obscenity of child and family poverty, deprivation and now homelessness has increased dramatically and consistently in the years since Fine Gael has been in government. One way the Minister can try to address that is to give resources to pupils in disadvantaged schools but the criteria for allocating DEIS status are not doing that for schools in my area. Even where schools have DEIS status, they are not getting the resources they need to give decent conditions for the teaching of pupils in these deprived and disadvantaged areas.

I wish to advise the Deputy that a key element of the DEIS plan for 2017 is the availability of a new identification process, as we have discussed, and which I outlined to the other Deputies.

In terms of the data sources, for example, they are using age dependency, levels of population decline, the education status of the families, overcrowding in the households, the occupations, unemployment levels and so on. They are using very objective data for identifying schools that are serving populations of greatest need. This is a best international practice model. As the data becomes available, it also allows us to track schools as they progress and allows for a more refined model responding to the need.

In the initial round, I was able to let through 79 schools that were at the highest level of disadvantage. There has not been an increase since 2009 of schools coming through that process. I am fully aware that there are other schools that have levels of disadvantage that need attention in the future and I will work to include those over time, but this is an area where we need to make improvements.

It is worth pointing out to the Deputy that it is complemented by the 900 extra teachers I am putting in for learning support and special need. All of those will be going to the schools with the greatest established need in terms of learning support or special need. There are two interventions that will help disadvantaged schools in the Deputy's area or in any area, namely, this new designation but also the work to make sure that resource teachers are following the areas of greatest need.

Gaelscoil Phádraig, in Loughlinstown, was refused DEIS status on its application. This is in an area where every other school in the area has DEIS status because it is an area of high disadvantage. The Minister's criteria are not fit for purpose in judging these matters. For example, because they take into account where the children live, children who are living in emergency accommodation - homeless children - but who happen to be living in emergency accommodation in Blackrock are not considered to be disadvantaged because the criteria do not take into account that they are in homeless accommodation. If someone is in homeless accommodation, it does not matter whether they are in Blackrock, Ballyfermot or Ballymun. They are homeless and disadvantaged and the school that has such children deserves DEIS status. Gaelscoil Phádraig has been given the run-around for two decades. It is in prefabs for the past decade. It was promised a school a decade ago. It never got it, and now it has been refused DEIS status. The Minister would want to get his criteria together. This particular school deserves DEIS status as well as a new school building.

The truth is that I was able to allow 30 schools move from urban band two to urban band one and to provide for 15 new urban band one schools. We identified 45 of the most deprived schools in the country to get the support of not only additional pupil-teacher ratios, access to the free meals scheme and access to the DEIS grant, but also access to a smaller class size. We used objective national criteria to pick the schools. Schools can seek a revision if they believe their pupils have not been properly judged under the system. They can indicate those children and that position will be reviewed in respect of each school but I hope the Deputy would agree that rather than have political criteria, we should use objective criteria generated by the CSO statisticians who can be relied on for their objectivity to make such choices. We then invest that resource in the areas where the greatest need is identified, and that is what I have done. On average, about two schools per constituency have been brought in. In every constituency I could name another school, as I am sure could the Deputy, that has not got in on this occasion but it is a first step. We will refine this process not only in terms of the choice of schools, but also what happens to support children within those schools.

I ask the Minister to review the decision on Gaelscoil Phádraig. It is in a disadvantaged area which nobody would doubt. The children in the school suffer disadvantage and have been shafted for 20 years. Even schools with DEIS status are not being resourced properly. The Holy Family school in Dunedin Park in Monkstown Farm applied for permission to undertake a summer works programme to put a fire alarm system in place and carry out emergency heating works. It was also looking to replace a water tank which was 50 years old, almost certainly unsafe and situated over a boiler. It received half of the money it needed to do all of these things; therefore, it cannot do them. It received half of the money it needed for the cheapest quote it could get. If even schools with DEIS status do not receive the resources they need, we have a problem. The school was also refused extra teachers to improve the pupil-teacher ratio. Will the Minister consider the Holy Family school in Dunedin Park and Gaelscoil Phádraig in Loughlinstown because they are in seriously disadvantaged areas and have been given a very raw deal on a number of fronts?

I assure the Deputy that Ministers do not look at schools and make a decision. It is based on fair and objective criteria, not political choices.

I am looking for fairness.

Urban schools in band one have a lower class size; on average, they have five pupils fewer per class. They receive a DEIS grant, a book grant and access to a home-school-community liaison teacher. They have a school completion programme at second level, as well as a school meals programme. These funds are significant. A very disadvantaged urban school in band one could, on average, receive almost €1,500 per pupil. This is putting in place hard resources to support the education of children and it is being done fairly. What we are also trying to do - I believe the Deputy will support this - is to introduce pilot schemes and clusters to look at really good practice and how we can mainstream it and ensure that when children enter these schools, they are fully engaged and brought on a pathway that will privilege them and see them make progress. We are not just looking at this matrix in the examination of schools. We want to ensure that what happens in the schools is the best it can be. As the Deputy knows, I have set the ambition that within a decade we will have the best approach to education, particularly for children who endure disadvantage and with special educational needs. That is one of our ambitions and we will implement it with this goal in mind.

Will the Minister look at the schools mentioned?

They will have to submit for review. The summer school works programme does not come under DEIS.

Schools Building Projects

Catherine Connolly

Question:

23. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps that have been taken, or are being taken, to build a new secondary school in Galway city in view of the provision in the programme for Government that school provision will reflect the diversity of 21st century Ireland and in view of the clear need and demand for a new second level school in Galway city and the waiting lists for almost all existing schools, including newly constructed schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10620/17]

I tabled a question to the Minister last month and I am back on the same subject because I am unhappy - more importantly, the group behind the request for a new Educate Together school in Galway is most unhappy - with the response. Given that there are five primary schools under the Educate Together banner, given that there is an independent report by NUI Galway establishing the need for a school, given that the Minister's school building programme identifies Galway as an area in which a new school may be necessary in 2018 and given many other criteria, will the Minister indicate steps the Department is taking? There are 1,480 children on a list of expressions of interest for entry to the new secondary school under Educate Together patronage.

I will repeat some of the information, but it is important that the House knows how the system works. The Department operates 314 geographic planning areas. It looks at the school places being provided in the school planning areas and sizes up this information against the demographic pressures. Geographic information systems data are used, as is the Department's database of children coming through. With this information the Department identifies the areas in which new schools are needed at primary or post-primary level.

As the Deputy knows, this year we have 13 new schools, nine post-primary and four primary schools. They are in areas where need was responded to. We continue to keep the Galway city area under review. Galway city is an area of demographic growth. It is also an area in which certain schools experience a decline in pupil numbers. From its review of the data, the Department has found existing post-primary schools in Galway city are capable of meeting the needs of the school planning area in the short to medium term. The 11 existing post-primary schools in Galway city include two new schools which opened in September 2013 in response to emerging demographic needs. They are Merlin College in Doughiska and Coláiste Bhaile Chláir which, between them, will provide 1,650 school places once completed. As with other school planning areas nationwide, the demographic data for the Galway city planning area are being kept under review by the Department.

I thank the Minister, but I already had that information from the answer to my previous question. I stated I was moving on from it. There are five national schools under the Educate Together banner in Galway and the children concerned have no secondary school to go to. As I understand it, only one school has experienced a decrease in numbers. All of the others have a waiting list. In Baile Chláir children cannot get into the new secondary school. An independent analysis by NUI Galway shows that a new school is necessary. I repeat that the Minister's school building programme shows that it may be necessary in 2018 as there are already 1,480 children on a list of expressions of interest. The programme for Government commits to the provision of new schools and giving choices to parents and children with regard to schools of a particular ethos or none. There are Educate Together schools in Knocknacarra, Newcastle, Claregalway and Kilcolgan which is in Kilcornan, but there is no secondary school for their pupils to go to. There are schools with waiting lists and the Minister is telling me the Department's demographic studies show that a school is not necessary. Something is amiss somewhere in the analysis.

The data are provided. There are 11 post-primary schools with 6,168 pupils. Capacity in the area, with the inclusion of the two new schools, is 6,711, or 540 additional places over and above current enrolments. As the Deputy said, two of the schools are new. The Department does not select individual patrons. We have a patronage competition. We do not indicate whether it should be this patron or not; we have a competition. In the case of one of the schools, there was a patronage process and the other school came in before there was a patronage competition. They are both multidenominational schools under the patronage of the ETB. The two new schools are multidenominational schools. We apply the same rules in every catchment area. This is not discriminating against one or another. The data presented to me show that there are approximately 500 places available over and above current enrolments in the post-primary catchment area. Of course, when a new school is needed, it will be open to a patronage competition in which the view of the parents will prevail.

Again, we are into the issue of patronage. According to the Department, there are 12 post-primary schools and 35 national schools, although I admit other documents state there are 36 national schools and 11 post-primary schools. There are waiting lists for almost all secondary schools in Galway. The statistics the Minister is using have been challenged by Educate Together which is more than willing to meet his officials to tease out the differences. Mistakes have been made on figures. That 95% of children in primary schools in a particular area will go to a secondary school in the area is not correct. Vast volumes of pupils travel from various areas to Galway city to go to school. The campaign has been ongoing since 2012 and five years on what Educate Together deserves at the very least is a meeting with departmental officials to tease out what appear to be substantial differences between the figures the Department is coming up with and those with which the group is coming up on the ground. I appeal to the Minister to facilitate a meeting as soon as possible.

Two new schools have been provided in the area. It is not the case that the Department is doing nothing. Two new schools have been provided.

There is a waiting list.

As of today, the Department's data show that there are more places than current enrolments. Obviously, if the Deputy wishes to submit data, I will get the officials to examine them. What happens in many cases - I have a little experience from meeting other Deputies - is that groups will look outside the catchment area to find schools to try to form different geographic areas than those used by the Department.

I can understand why they would do that but we have to operate in a fair way across the whole country and that is the approach that is being taken. It is an established process which attempts to be fair to all who apply. If the Deputy submits data we will examine it.