I want to raise again the issue of access to primary school places in Rathcoole, County Dublin. This is an issue Deputy Eoin Ó Broin and I raised in the House prior to the summer recess. Unfortunately, our concerns have come to pass, in that children in Rathcoole have been unable to secure primary school places there. To put things into context, in February last year the principal of one of the local primary schools wrote to the Department. He stated:
Our school is the only English medium school in the village. There is also a Gaelscoil situated here. The Department of Education has signalled that there will be a school open in the Rathcoole/Newcastle/Saggart area in 2020. However, this seems highly unlikely to occur in such a short time-frame.
Most of our classes are full at 31 pupils per class. We have waiting lists for most streams. There is an increasing number of housing developments under construction and planned for construction. This will bring much increased demand for places.
Families have moved into houses in our village only to discover that our school cannot accommodate them. Some families are travelling significant distances to other schools as a result. We also have a situation whereby some families have one or more child enrolled with us and another child enrolled elsewhere, as there is no space available for the other child.
Our Board of Management has had to engage with the Section 29 process of the Education Act on many occasions, where an appeal was taken by families as a result of our refusal to enrol. At a recent Section 29 Hearing in the Department of Education, Marlborough St., the chairperson of the Section 29 Hearing Committee requested that we inform you of the existing pressure and further expected pressure for school places in Rathcoole.
We are currently processing next year's Junior Infant classes. [That was for September of this year.] There have been 117 applications from the local community alone this year: 93 places will be offered.
We highlighted all of this earlier in the year. When places were offered, a number of parents were on a waiting list and they came to us. We brought it to the floor of the Dáil and debated it. The summer has come and gone and children have gone back to school. A significant number of them have been unable to gain access to one of the two local schools in Rathcoole, namely, the Gaelscoil and the national school. Some of those children have gone elsewhere but some of them have gone back to preschool. It is not in their best interests from a developmental point of view that they are not going to primary school when they are of an appropriate age to do so. It is not happening.
The Minister has previously issued a reply stating that in 2020 there will be a new school. I have said it before, and I want to emphasise it now, that the new school proposed is not in Rathcoole. It is in Fortunestown. The Minister identified it in a previous reply. It will not address the need that exists today. Little has happened from the Department's point of view to reassess the demand for primary school places in Rathcoole, where new houses are being built and planned and there is a shortage of places today. The children of today, and not the future, have failed to access one of their own local primary schools. I appeal to the Minister to reassess the school capacity issue in the Rathcoole area for this year and next year and in the longer term as the housing development continues.