Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Questions (484)

Denis Naughten

Question:

484. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education if she has future plans to open additional gaelscoileanna; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28850/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, my Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date information on significant new residential development in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes as there is a constantly evolving picture with planned new residential development.

Where data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:

- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,

- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,

- Provision of a new school or schools.

As the Deputy will be aware, since April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 45 new schools over the 4 year period 2019 to 2022.

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 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 and language of instruction i.e. Irish or English for their child’s education.

In September 2019, I announced that five of the new primary schools being established from 2020-2022 are being pre-designated for Irish-medium education. The five new schools will serve areas of growing populations where there is no existing Irish-medium primary school or where there is more than one new school to be established between 2019 and 2022.

In addition, the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process provides an opportunity to increase the number of Gaelscoileanna nationwide. The process, which involves the live transfer of existing schools, is designed to provide additional multi-/non-denominational schools in Irish or English and an opportunity is available to English-medium schools seeking to make a transition to Irish-medium provision in that context, in line with the expressed wishes of parents and the local school community. Any school which is seeking a transfer of patronage, including transitioning to Irish-medium provision, should contact their school patron directly.

The requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard to the impact of the increased roll out of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. My Department will also continue to monitor areas where the accommodation of existing schools, including gaelscoileanna, may need to be expanded in order to meet the needs of the local population.

Details of schools that provide education through the medium of Irish are available on my Department's website www.education.ie.