Education | Preventing stress arising from lack of school places or school transport for parents in full-time employment
To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which efforts continue to be made to provide adequate school places at all levels to prevent stress arising from a lack of school places or lack of school transport and given the necessity of both parents to be in full-time employment; the extent of the efforts that continue to be made in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
For school planning purposes, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and utilises a Geographical Information System to anticipate school place demand. Information from a range of sources, including Child Benefit data, school enrolment data and information on residential development activity is used for this purpose.
Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, My Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain the up-to-date information on significant new residential developments in each area.
My Department additionally consults with school patron bodies in order to identify areas with pressures on enrolments.
Where demographic data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may, be provided through:
- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,
- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,
- Provision of a new school or schools.
In addition to ongoing demographic analyses, my Department continues to liaise with Local Authorities in respect of potential longer-term requirements for educational provision across the country, through the review of the County Development Plans, preparation of Local Area Plans and other relevant statutory planning processes.
Projections of post primary school place requirements are informed by multiple factors, including primary school enrolments in the area and primary to post primary transfer patterns.
While my Department may be aware of increasing pressures and demand for additional school places in an area, it is important to note that where enrolment pressures arise, it may not be as a result of lack of accommodation but may be driven by the following factors:
• Duplication of applications – pupils have applied for a place to a number of schools in the area
• School of choice – pupils can’t get a place in their preferred school while there are places in other schools in the town/area
• Some towns/areas have single sex schools and while places are available in the school they are not available to all pupils
• External draw – pupils coming from outside the local area
My Department works to establish the true extent of any capacity issues across school planning areas through ongoing discussions with the relevant school patrons and authorities.
This close engagement will allow my Department to identify at an early stage particular capacity requirements for the forthcoming years which may necessitate further action to that already in train including, where required, the provision of modular accommodation solutions.
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