Ireland has experienced a significant bulge in pupil enrolments going through our schools. This has seen a significant expansion in the rate of provision of new school places and this puts a high demand on the Department's capital budgets. Since 2011, some 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 (2016-2021), details the school projects that are being progressed through the architectural planning process. The Capital Programme also provides for devolved funding for additional classrooms for schools where an immediate enrolment need has been identified.
We are building more schools and providing more additional school places than ever before. This reflects the priority which this Government is putting on education.
In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. My Department uses a Geographical Information System (GIS) to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. 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, is ongoing at the moment. My Department is currently factoring into the demographic exercises critical updated data including updated enrolment data and up-to-date information on additional residential development from local authorities. The 2017/18 provisional enrolment data has just recently been made available and provides an important update on the available data 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 among the prescribed bodies to whom 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.