Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (512)

Johnny Mythen


512. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Education when parents who are affected by capacity issues in County Wexford will be informed of potential second level school places for September 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38606/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998. In schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary.

The selection process used by schools and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, it may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in their school of first choice.

In accordance with the provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, all schools have drafted new policies to be published on the school’s website.

The act requires schools to clearly set out their selection criteria for application in the event of oversubscription, in their admission policies. The criteria to be applied by schools and the order of priority are a matter for the schools themselves.

Further information on the new admission process is available on the Department’s website at www.education.ie/en/Parents/Information/School-Enrolment.

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 (GIS). The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit Data from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department's own school enrolment databases, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise.

The process has been strengthened this year through three specific initiatives:

(i) enhanced engagement with local authorities in relation to the information on residential development incorporated in the analysis process;

(ii) additional engagement with patron bodies in relation to their local knowledge on school place requirements. Education and Training Boards, Diocesan offices and national patron bodies such as Educate Together, An Foras Pátrúnachta etc. can also be an important source of local knowledge. This will add to information also provided to the Department by local authorities or individual schools.

(iii) utilising the information gleaned from schools under the national inventory of school capacity completed by individual schools last year as part of POD, P-POD returns process.

Similar to the process adopted for September 2020 readiness, the Department will be engaging further with patron bodies shortly in advance of identifying specific September 2021 capacity pressure points priorities which will necessitate specific action.

In a ‘normal’ year, addressing the increase demands for school places, whilst challenging, is manageable – generally through utilisation of existing spare capacity within schools, rental, temporary accommodation or other short term measures pending the delivery of permanent accommodation.