The Programme for Government commits to increasing the range of after-school services in schools or community hubs.
Already data from the Annual Early Years Sector Profile shows that a very large majority of these services, and early learning and childcare (ELC) services, operate from community facilities at present – with 17% of services operating from community facilities, 1.3% from Family Resource Centres and 3.8% from parish halls.
In addition, Government policy, including the National Action Plan for School-Age Childcare and First 5 recognises that the use of school facilities that have suitable environments for ELC and school-age childcare (SAC) should be maximised where demand exists and where it can be facilitated by the relevant school authority.
Already, 14.2% of all ELC and SAC services in Ireland operate from school facilities.
The Department of Education has advised that the use of school facilities lie with the relevant school authority in consultation with the property owner and having regard to the needs of the school, staff and students.
The Department of Education policy is to encourage the use of school facilities, where possible, for community, training and education-related activities, including ELC and SAC.
To assist schools in considering applications for use of their facilities, the Department of Education in consultation with representatives of schools has drafted guidelines on the use of school property outside of school hours, which is available here:
These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive but are provided to assist schools in considering applications for the use of their facilities.
In line with First 5, the Department of Education plans to conduct a survey of a representative sample of schools on the use of school facilities for early learning and care and school age childcare services.
The results of this survey, due to be available in Quarter 1 2022, will be used to inform a review of the guidelines on the use of school buildings outside of school hours.