Thursday, 7 March 2013

Questions (43, 91, 92)

Denis Naughten

Question:

43. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in addressing the specific issues of rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11765/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

91. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the authorities of a number of smaller, mostly rural denominational schools regarding their future; if he will ensure that all such schools’ needs and traditions are carefully examined and assessed with a view to addressing issues of their concern; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12191/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

92. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he has had dialogue with the authorities at smaller and denominational rural schools with a view to putting in place structures that have due regard for their ethos and tradition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12192/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 91 and 92 together.

There are many aspects to be considered in regard to small school provision. I assure the Deputies that I am aware of the concerns of the small rural schools and I am cognisant of the importance of schools to rural communities. Given our recent population growth, we will have a much increased enrolment at all levels of education. This is expected to continue in the medium term. Many pupil places are required in areas that currently have no school provision at all. We have schools in areas of stable or declining population with relatively low pupil numbers. Our current configuration of small primary schools is being examined by my Department as part of a value for money review. Among the issues the review will take into account are questions such as availability of diversity of provision, ethos of schools, parental choice, language of instruction, travel distances, transport costs and the impact of schools on dispersed rural communities. The review is at an advanced stage of preparation. I expect to publish it and I look forward to debating its findings at that stage.

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 19.