Thursday, 21 January 2021

Questions (175)

Michael McNamara

Question:

175. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Education if she will request an urgent review of the process of allocating school places in secondary schools (details supplied) in County Clare, given the serious and ongoing issue of a lack of sufficient secondary places for sixth class pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3039/21]

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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 (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 in demand 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.