In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, the Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data from the Department of Social Protection and the Department's own school enrolment databases, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, the Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.
Information on school enrolments and Child Benefit data allows the Department to map where children are living or attending school and this information provides a degree of certainty in projecting demand in an area in future years.
Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand (and timing of demand) in an area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, the Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain up-to-date information on significant new residential development. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is aligned with the demographic changes in an area.
The pace of completion of planned housing and occupancy of houses is by its nature less predictable and can vary. Accordingly, while the Department takes into account planned additional residential development, the timing of completion of such development can be subject to change depending on local circumstances.
As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018 the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country.
From time to time for operational or other reasons the patron of a new school due to open in a certain year may choose to defer the opening.
Of the 18 new schools (primary and post-primary) to be established in 2019, two of the primary schools were deferred by the patron as follows:
A new 8 classroom primary school to serve the Swords/North school planning area - the patron of the new school advised that there were no enrolments for September 2019 and that the opening of the school has been deferred to September 2020. The patron indicated significant parental interest in relation to enrolments for 2020.
A new 8 classroom primary school to serve the Dunshaughlin school planning area - the patron of the new school advised that there are currently no enrolments for the 2019/20 school year and that the opening of the school has been deferred from September 2019. The patron body expects enrolments from a new local housing development which has been delayed in the area and they have received significant interest for September 2020 enrolments for the new school.
My Department will continue to liaise with the patrons of these schools. In addition, in the context of further strengthening the demographic analysis process, the Department intends to have additional engagement with patron bodies in relation to their local knowledge on school place requirements.
A patronage process is run after it has been decided, based on demographic analysis, that a new school is required. This patronage process is open to all patron bodies and prospective patrons. Parental preferences for each patron, from parents of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity currently available in these areas, are key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process.
The Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) has been developed by my Department to provide objective information to parents and guardians which will allow them to make an informed choice in expressing a preference for their preferred model of patronage for their child’s education.
The patronage process for new schools is overseen by an external independent advisory group, the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG). Following their consideration of my Department’s assessment reports, the NSEG will submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations are made available on my Department's website.
The patronage processes for the schools to be established in 2019 have concluded.
For the six post-primary schools to be established in 2020, the Online Patronage Process System (OPPS) closed for parental preferences on the 4th October 2019 . It is anticipated that the successful patrons will be announced shortly. The assessment reports and the NSEG recommendations will be made available on my Department's website. The patronage process for the primary schools to be established in 2020 is currently underway for parental preferences.
As the Deputy will be aware, updated quarterly information on the status of the new schools announced to be established from 2019 - 2022 is provided to the Education Committee, including tabular information on interim and permanent accommodation for the schools. The next update to the Committee will be provided in January.
In addition, the current status of projects being delivered is listed on a county by county basis on my Department’s website at www.education.ie and updated on a monthly basis to reflect their progress through the various stages of capital appraisal, site acquisition, design, tender and construction.