In 2012/13 school year, there were 3,152 primary schools in the country. 82 (2.6%) primary schools have a multidenominational ethos. Educate Together is patron for 52 (1.6%) of these schools. 7 new primary schools opened in 2013. All 7 have a multidenominational ethos. Educate Together is patron for 3 of these schools. One of the schools under Educate Together patronage opened as a result of the patronage divesting process. 4 new primary schools will commence operation in September 2014, all of these schools will have a multidenominational ethos. Educate Together will be patron for 2 of these schools.
Apart from the school established in 2013 under the patronage divesting process, the other 10 new primary schools were or are being established to meet a demographic need. The arrangements for determining patronage for such schools were announced by me in June 2011. These arrangements, which are overseen by the New Schools Establishment Group, place a heavy focus on parental choice and they allow for the introduction or widening of diversity of school provision where parents want this.
My Department continues to analyse demographic data to identify where further new primary schools may be required to meet demographic demands from 2015 onwards. It will be open to all patron bodies, including Educate Together, to apply for patronage of any such schools in line with the procedures outlined above. Under the patronage divesting process, it is expected that a further 4 new primary schools will commence operation in 2014. All of these will be under the patronage of Educate Together. As part of this particular process, the Deputy will probably be aware that my Department surveyed 43 areas to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas. The outcome of the survey indicated a viable parental demand for an alternative patron in 28 of the areas – 27 for a multidenominational English medium school and 1 for a multidenominational Irish medium school. Early progress is being made with the expected commencement of 4 new schools under this process in 2014. Active consideration is being given to options for divesting in the other areas concerned. As such it would not be possible to indicate the percentage or number of primary schools in the country that will be Educate Together or multidenominational schools by or after 2016.