I wish to confirm to the Deputy that the majority of schools have a general purpose room or Physical Education hall, with general purpose rooms being the provision at primary level and PE halls the provision at post primary level. In addition, many schools have access to adjacent local facilities, including community halls, public parks, playing fields and swimming pools.
My Department provides general purpose and PE halls with the construction of all new primary and post primary schools respectively. These facilities may also be provided where a major building or refurbishment project is being delivered for an existing school. However, the majority of schools already have a GP room or PE hall, as appropriate, as indicated in their Annual School Returns.
As the Deputy will be aware, my Department continues to implement the capital programme under the National Development Plan. Investment and expenditure on GP rooms and PE halls is an element of the overall expenditure and investment in the School Building Programme. The main focus of resources over the last decade has been on provision of additional capacity to cater for increasing demographics, particularly at post-primary level and for special education needs provision.
However, under Project Ireland 2040 there will be an increasing focus on the upgrade and refurbishment of the existing school stock. This will include a PE Hall build and modernisation programme to ensure that students in all post-primary schools have access to appropriate facilities to support PE provision, as committed to in the Programme for Government.
The Deputy may also be aware of the very significant school building programme that is currently underway. Overall, there are in excess of 1,300 school building projects at various stages of design, planning, and construction.
As the Deputy may be aware, at a national level, primary enrolments are projected to decrease significantly over the coming decade, from a peak in 2018. While there will be local and regional variations, and the impact of Ukrainian arrivals will mitigate this reduction somewhat, there will be strategic opportunities to consider the overall accommodation needs of schools.
My Department will continue to work to ensure that capital investment in our schools is targeted in the most efficient and effective way to support schools in meeting the education needs of their students and communities.