In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, the Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System, using data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data from the Department of Social Protection and the Department's own school enrolment databases, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, the Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.
Information on school enrolments and Child Benefit data allows the Department to map where children are living or attending school and this information provides a degree of certainty in projecting demand in an area in future years.
Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand (and timing of demand) in an area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, the Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain up-to-date information on significant new residential development. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is aligned with the demographic changes in an area.
The pace of completion of planned housing and occupancy of houses is by its nature less predictable and can vary. Accordingly, while the Department takes into account planned additional residential development, the timing of completion of such development can be subject to change depending on local circumstances.
As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2018 the Government announced plans for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years (2019 to 2022). This announcement follows nationwide, demographic exercises carried out by my Department into the future need for primary and post-primary schools across the country.
From time to time for operational or other reasons the patron of a new school due to open in a certain year may choose to defer the opening.
Of the 14 new primary schools to be established in 2019, two were deferred by the patron as follows:
- A new 8 classroom primary school to serve the Swords/North school planning area - the patron of the new school advised that there were no enrolments for September 2019 and that the opening of the school has been deferred to September 2020. The patron indicated significant parental interest in relation to enrolments for 2020.
- A new 8 classroom primary school to serve the Dunshaughlin school planning area - the patron of the new school advised that there are currently no enrolments for the 2019/20 school year and that the opening of the school has been deferred from September 2019. The patron body expects enrolments from a new local housing development which has been delayed in the area and they have received significant interest for September 2020 enrolments for the new school.
My Department will continue to liaise with the patrons of these schools. In addition, in the context of further strengthening the demographic analysis process, the Department intends to have additional engagement with patron bodies in relation to their local knowledge on school place requirements.