I can assure the Deputy that it is the policy of my Department to ensure a high standard of permanent accommodation for all schools. However, in the context of a rapidly increasing school population over the past decade or more, it is sometimes necessary to put in place interim accommodation solutions to meet the needs of schools. Given the timeframes for the acquisition of suitable sites, design, statutory planning processes, tendering and construction, it is often necessary for newly-established schools to commence operation in such interim accommodation.
Since 2011, 117 new primary, post-primary and special schools have been established by the Department of Education. Of these, 51 are already operating in their permanent accommodation. The projects to deliver permanent accommodation for the remaining schools are at various stages of planning and construction. The Deputy has requested a breakdown of these by status and county in tabular form and I have arranged for my officials to provide the requested details directly to her office in due course.
In relation to the acquisition of permanent sites, the Deputy will appreciate that the site acquisition process is very complex and subject to completion of successful negotiation and conveyancing processes. Each acquisition is unique and dependent on multiple factors, many of which may be outside of the control of the Department of Education. The Deputy will also appreciate the importance of conducting a thorough appraisal of site options before proceeding with an acquisition in order to obtain best value for the Exchequer. While the site acquisition can necessarily take some time, I can assure the Deputy that the Department is working to progress all site acquisitions as quickly as possible. It is important to note that of the 117 new schools established since 2011, only six do not yet have their permanent site identification. Once the Department has certainty on the permanent site for a school the project for the new school building is progressed to the architectural planning process as quickly as possible.
Approximately 1,200 school building projects under the Department's large-scale and additional accommodation scheme are currently in progress across the various stages of planning, design, tender and construction, most of which are expected to be either under construction or completed in the period up to 2025. There are currently in excess of 250 school building projects at construction, with a continuous stream of other projects at or near the tendering stage. These are being progressed as quickly as possible.