I wish to advise the Deputy that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in the area. Parents have the right to choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.
The question of enrolment in individual schools, including the setting of catchment areas, is the responsibility of the Board of Management on behalf of the school Patron and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters.
Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school. Further information on the Section 29 appeals process is available on the Department's website www.education.ie. The Education Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The EWS can be contacted at 01-7718500.
In April 2018, the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). The announcement followed nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country. While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school for the school planning area referred to by the Deputy, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.
The post-primary school in the area referred to by the Deputy is under the patronage of Louth and Meath Education and Training Board and has a current enrolment in the region of 1,000 pupils. The school is experiencing demand for additional school places and the ETB is open to assisting in meeting this demand. The ETB has submitted an application for additional accommodation which my Department is currently considering. The outcome will assist my Department in determining the future need in the area. In the meantime, my Department has approved the provision of additional temporary accommodation - 8 general classrooms and 1 science lab - to Louth and Meath Education and Training Board to meet the school’s immediate needs and the project for this accommodation is currently on site.