My Department uses a Geographical Information System to identify the areas under increased demographic pressure nationwide. The system uses data from the Central Statistics Office, Ordnance Survey Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and information from my Department's own databases. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.
When it is decided that a new school is required to meet demographic needs in an area, my Department runs a separate patronage process to decide who will operate the school. It is open to all patrons and prospective patrons to apply for patronage of a school under this process and parental preferences for each patron, along with an analysis of existing provision in the area, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of the process.
This process was followed in relation to the decision on the patronage of the new primary school which opened in September 2016 to serve the Drumcondra_Marino_Dublin 1 area. My Department assessed the applications received from the prospective patrons, including examining the parental preferences received in the applications to ensure they represented children living within the school planning area which the school is set up to serve. My Department prepared an assessment report for the consideration of the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG) which then submitted a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision.
The patronage assessment report which is published on my Department's website, while indicating substantial support for an Irish medium school, reflects nearly twice as many valid preferences for an Educate Together school in this area as for a Gaelscoil. I accepted the recommendation of the NSEG and the school under the patronage of Educate Together opened in September 2016.
While there are three Gaelscoileanna already operating in the area, the NSEG, in their report to me, noted the strong level of demand from parents for Irish-medium education in the area and recommended that this should be kept under review in the context of future demographic exercises. In this regard, my Department is currently carrying out nationwide demographic exercises at primary and post-primary level to identify areas of demographic growth and determine where additional school accommodation is needed in order to plan for school provision nationwide and this work is almost complete.