I thank the Deputy for his question. I know we had a discussion on the issue last night. Ireland has experienced a significant bulge in pupil enrolments going through our schools. This has seen a significant expansion in the rate of provision of new school places and this puts a high demand on the Department's capital budgets. Since 2011, some 340 major school projects and over 120,000 new and replacement places have been provided and 8,718 additional teachers have been employed.
My Department's capital investment programme 2016 to 2021 continues to address the challenges posed by a rapidly increasing school population. The programme details the school projects that are being progressed through the architectural planning process. It also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified.
In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a geographical information system using data from a range of sources to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. In this regard, nationwide demographic exercises involving all school planning areas at primary and post-primary level, which will determine where additional school accommodation will be needed in the future, is ongoing at the moment and it is anticipated that decisions based on these exercises will be announced in the coming weeks.
My Department is included among the prescribed bodies to whom local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development and local area plans or proposed variations to development plans for comment and observations. This information is factored into the Department's planning process. It also enables local authorities to reserve future school sites in areas designated for proposed housing development.
With regard to staffing, the criteria used for the allocation of teaching posts is published annually on the Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule includes the provision where schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional permanent mainstream posts on developing grounds.
We are building more schools and providing more additional school places than ever before. This reflects the priority which this Government is putting on education and is underpinned by the €8.6 billion investment for school buildings that is set out in the national development plan 2018 to 2027.