In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a Geographical Information System (GIS). The GIS uses data from a range of sources, including Child Benefit Data from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Department's own school enrolment databases, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise.
The process has been strengthened this year through three specific initiatives:
(i) enhanced engagement with local authorities in relation to the information on residential development incorporated in the analysis process;
(ii) additional engagement with patron bodies in relation to their local knowledge on school place requirements. Education and Training Boards, Diocesan offices and national patron bodies such as Educate Together, An Foras Pátrúnachta etc. can also be an important source of local knowledge. This will add to information also provided to the Department by local authorities or individual schools.
(iii) utilising the information gleaned from schools under the national inventory of school capacity completed by individual schools last year as part of POD, P-POD returns process.
Similar to the process adopted for September 2020 readiness, the Department will be engaging further with patron bodies shortly in advance of identifying specific September 2021 capacity pressure points priorities which will necessitate specific action.
In a ‘normal’ year, addressing the increase demands for school places, whilst challenging, is manageable – generally through utilisation of existing spare capacity within schools, rental, temporary accommodation or other short term measures pending the delivery of permanent accommodation.
My Department is currently assessing an application for additional accommodation from the first named school included in the details supplied by the Deputy and a response will issue directly to the school authority when the assessment has been completed.
A new school building is being provided for the second named school and the project is currently at stage 2b of the architectural planning process with planning permission having been granted. My Department has provided funding to the school for interim accommodation pending construction of the new school building. When constructed, the school will have capacity for 1,000 pupils.
A major building project for the third named school to increase its capacity to 1,000 pupils is currently on site.