It is a valid question for the Deputy to raise. Ireland has experienced a significant bulge in pupil enrolments in schools. We have seen significant expansion in the rate of provision of new school places, which puts a high demand on the Department's capital budgets. Since 2011 there have been 340 major school projects and over 120,000 new and replacement places have been provided.
My Department's capital programme continues to address the challenges posed by a rapidly increasing school population. To meet this demographic challenge, my Department’s capital investment programme for the period 2016 to 2021 details the school projects that are being progressed through the architectural planning process. The programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms in schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified. We are building more schools and providing more school places than ever before. This reflects the priority which the Government is giving 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. It uses a geographical information system, GIS, to identify where there will be pressure to provide school places across the country. The GIS uses data from a range of sources.
The nationwide demographic exercises involving all school planning areas at primary and post-primary level which will determine where additional school accommodation will be needed in the future are ongoing. My Department is factoring in the demographic exercises critical updated data, including updated enrolment data and up-to-date information on additional residential development from local authorities. The provisional 2017-18 enrolment data have recently been made available and provide an important update on the available information which will inform the outcome of the demographic exercises. It is anticipated that decisions based on the review will be announced in the coming weeks. In addition, my Department is included in the prescribed bodies to which local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development and local area plans or proposed variations to development plans for comment and observations. This enables local authorities to reserve future school sites in areas designated for proposed housing development.