School Placement

I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue and thank the Minister of State, Deputy Haughey, for taking it. This matter relates to the provision of secondary school placements in the Knocklyon-Rathfarnham area. The main secondary school in the area, St. Colmcille's community school — there are two additional secondary schools, one for boys and one for young women — is limited in that it can only accommodate 120 new first-year pupils per year. One of the feeder schools to the secondary school is St. Colmcille's senior national school, from which 165 pupils graduate each year. In addition, some 30 students each graduate from the nearby gaelscoil and from St. Patrick's Church of Ireland school. There are also a number of other national schools in the area.

As the numbers indicate, there are not sufficient places at second level to accommodate all the pupils graduating from local schools. Another issue that arises within the Knocklyon-Rathfarnham area is that the St. Patrick's Church of Ireland school is not a feeder school for any of the secondary schools. Coláiste Éanna CBS, Ballyroan, is a boys' school and even though it is located adjacent to St. Patrick's, it is not recognised as a feeder school it. This creates its own issues for the area.

There is a significant demand in the Knocklyon-Rathfarnham area for second level schools. A number of young people are obliged to take one or perhaps two buses in order to attend schools elsewhere because there are no others within the immediate geographic area which can accommodate them. Some of them are obliged to travel as far as the city centre to attend school. Others must travel to the city centre and then catch a second bus to get to the schools they attend in suburbs which are not serviced by direct bus routes from the Knocklyon-Rathfarnham area. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State could provide an indication of the steps that could be taken to alleviate the difficulties.

I am taking this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Coughlan. I thank the Senator for raising the matter because it affords me the opportunity to outline the process being utilised to ensure that there will be adequate accommodation in schools at post-primary level in all parts of the country.

The most recent projections used by the Department would see the projected enrolments at post-primary level increase from the current total enrolment — excluding plcs — of circa 312,200 pupils to an expected enrolment of between 331,500 and 336,600 pupils by 2017. It is within this context that the forward planning section is in the process of analysing all areas in the country to determine the level of additional provision which will be required at post-primary level up to 2017. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet the demand for places. When these factors have been considered, decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area.

Overall post-primary requirements in the Knocklyon-Rathfarnham area will be considered in this context. It is expected that, initially, any additional pupil places required will be provided by extensions to the existing schools. In that context, I can confirm that the Department recently approved capital funding to provide additional accommodation in Coláiste Éanna, Ballyroan. Sancta Maria College, Ballyroan, was listed in the schools building programme announcement of 24 January 2011 in the context of progressing the project to secure planning permission with a view to preparing tender documents. The progression of further large-scale building projects arising from the forward planning section's analysis will be considered in the context of the Department's school building and modernisation programme.

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of those schools. The Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. The Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

I again thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to outline the process being utilised to ensure that there will be adequate accommodation in schools at post-primary level in all parts of the country.

I welcome the commitment to the effect that overall post-primary requirements in the Knocklyon-Rathfarnham area will be considered in the context of the analysis being carried out by the forward planning section in order to determine the level of additional provision required. The inclusion of Sancta Maria College — the girls' school — in the recent announcement relating to the schools building programme is a welcome development. The additional accommodation provided at Coláiste Éanna, the local boys' school, is great but it came in the form of an all-purpose community room and sports hall. The school authority has recently reduced the number of pupils which can be accommodated there.

I will take note of that fact.