I can confirm that my Department received an application from the school referred to by the Deputy for funding to facilitate its growth to a second stream i.e. a 16 classroom school. As the Deputy will be aware, the over-riding objective of Education capital expenditure is to meet the demographic challenge facing the education system, whereby total pupil enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by around 107,000 additional pupils between 2012 and 2019 - over 70,000 at primary level and over 35,000 at post primary - and will continue to rise at post primary level to the year 2026, at least. A priority therefore for my Department is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. My Department is not in a position to develop one school where this may negatively impact on other schools in the area.
In the case of Sligo. it is projected that whilst overall pupil numbers across the 13 schools in the Sligo catchment area will be relatively stable up to 2019, it is anticipated that overall pupil enrolment numbers will decline thereafter. In terms of school accommodation, there is sufficient capacity available within existing schools to cater for the demand for school places. In that regard, an additional 8 classrooms catering for up to 224 pupils in the case of the school, in question, has the potential to have a significant impact on other schools in the same catchment area. In light of the above, the school authority has been advised that my Department is not in a position to accede to the school's request in respect of an additional class of junior infants in September 2014.
However to assess further the pupil enrolment trends in the Sligo area including information on school pre-enrolments for the 2014/2015 academic year, my Department will be contacting the Patron and school authorities of the 13 primary schools in the Sligo area. When this data has been obtained and reviewed, my Department will communicate further with the Patron and school authority in question.