Thursday, 23 March 2006

Ceisteanna (201, 202)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

201 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a significant lack of primary school places in certain towns (details supplied) in County Kildare; the way in which she intends to alleviate this situation in view of the fact that a purpose built primary school is not being allowed to enrol anything more than two infant classes per school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11544/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

I am aware that Sallins, Naas, Kill and Johnstown, like many areas located within close proximity to Dublin, continue to experience population growth, a position that almost inevitably places some strain on existing educational provision. However, a range of significant measures has been undertaken by my Department to address the current and future need for pupil places in these areas.

At primary level, an entire new school has been provided at Killashee while temporary accommodation has been provided at Scoil Corbain, St. Conleth's and St. Mary's national school and St. Conleth's Naofa in Naas. Temporary accommodation has also been provided at one of the two nearby national schools at Caragh. In addition, approval has been given to Gaelscoil Nás na Riogh, Caragh national school and Kill national school for additional accommodation for September 2006. GS Nás na Riogh has recently been approved to commence architectural planning for the provision of a new 16 classroom school.

At Sallins national school, a seven classroom extension is completed and this extension has increased capacity from nine classrooms to 16 classrooms. An extension to bring the school up to 24 classrooms has commenced architectural planning.

Additionally, there are proposals to improve accommodation at St. David's national school, Two Mile House national school and Caragh national school. The accommodation needs of the national schools at Ballycane, Convent of Mercy in Naas and Scoil Pádraig in Johnstown are also currently being assessed.

Currently, two junior infant classes are accommodated in the new national school to which the Deputy refers. When fully occupied, the school will operate as a two-stream 16 classroom school. To enable it develop in this manner, it can only enrol two junior infant classes annually. This incremental development is common to all newly established schools to ensure that a shortage of accommodation at the school is avoided by an over enrolment in the early stages and, crucially, to ensure that the enrolments and staffing levels in other schools in the area, where older pupils would inevitably be drawn, are not adversely affected.

My Department is awaiting details of an agreed enrolment policy from the primary providers in the area to ensure that the development of the new school is underpinned as envisaged. It is satisfied that the totality of the primary accommodation available in the area in question provides sufficient places to cater for all those seeking places.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

202 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the options which are available to the parents of a four year old child who does not have a primary school place for September 2006; the action which can be taken to alleviate the situation for concerned parents and their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11550/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The compulsory school starting age in a national school is six years of age. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school, the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student himself or herself, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with within 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of.

I am aware that Kill, Sallins and Naas, like many areas located within close proximity to Dublin, continue to experience population growth, a position that almost inevitably places some strain on existing educational provision. However, a range of significant measures has been undertaken by my Department to address the current and future need for pupil places in these areas. At primary level, an entire new school has been provided at Killashee while temporary accommodation has been provided at Scoil Corbain, St. Conleth's and St. Mary's national school and St Conleth's Naofa in Naas. Temporary accommodation has also been approved at Caragh national school, St. Corban's, Gaelscoil Nas na Riogh in Naas, and Scoil Naomh Brighde.

A brand new state of the art 16 classroom school together with a double autistic unit was opened this September in Naas town. This project, in particular, will assist in easing any difficulties for primary pupil places that may exist in Naas. It is also proposed to build a brand new state of the art 16 classroom school for Gaelscoil Nas na Riogh.

With regard to Kill, the property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department on to site acquisitions generally, is continuing, in consultation with the local authority, to explore all possibilities for the acquisition of a site for a new 16-24 classroom national school in Kill.

Additionally, there are proposals to improve accommodation at St. David's national school and Two Mile House national school. The long-term accommodationneeds of the national schools at Ballycane, Caragh and Convent of Mercy in Naas are also currently being assessed. At Sallins national school, a seven classroom extension is under construction. When completed, this extension will increase capacity from nine to 16 classrooms. An extension to bring the school up to 24 classrooms is being allowed into architectural planning this year.

All of these initiatives represent huge capital investment and demonstrate my commitment to meeting the needs of the areas concerned. The school planning section of my Department will keep the position under review to ensure that any additional emerging needs are met as expeditiously as possible.