Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (516)

Dara Calleary


516. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of schools that participated in the schools reconfiguration for diversity programme by county; if there is a capital budget associated with the scheme, for example, to facilitate a school whose numbers expand post divestment to acquire necessary land for such development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33090/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy may be aware, the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process was announced by the Government to provide more multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country, in line with the choices of families and school communities and the Programme for Government commitment for 400 multi-/non-denominational schools by 2030. This process, which involves the transfer of live schools, as opposed to the amalgamation and closure model of the patronage divesting process, is aimed at increasing multi or non-denominational provision.

The initial phase of the process involved each Education and Training Board (ETB) identifying an area where there may be unmet oncoming demand for a multi-/non-denominational school, and (in partnership with the local childcare committee) surveying parents of pre-school children, rather than parents of children in schools, to assess the level of oncoming demand in that area.

This identification phase work provides useful learning and will inform the development of the process. My Department is currently engaging with representatives of the Irish Episcopal Conference with a view to working through and agreeing the approach for the next stage.

Separately to the main Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process, school communities can directly engage with their school patron regarding transfer of patronage to a multi-denominational patron. A number of patronage changes have taken place in recent years, for example, Two-Mile Community National School in Kerry, opening in September 2017 and Faughart, in Co. Louth and Brannocktown, Co. Kildare which became Community National Schools in 2018.

A number of other schools are due to become multi-denominational Community National Schools from September 2019, following agreement between their current patron and the local ETB.

In relation to the purchase of additional land, it is open to any school to submit an application for grant aid under the Department’s Additional School Accommodation scheme. As the Deputy is no doubt aware, there are competing demands on the Department’s capital budget imposed by the need to prioritise available capital funding towards the provision of essential classroom accommodation in areas where significant demographic need has been established.