To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the immediate measures he is taking to resolve the shortage of secondary school places in Skerries, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
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, using data from a range of sources, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise. With this information, my Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.
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 data on significant new residential development in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes as there is a constantly evolving picture with planned new residential development.
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, depending on the circumstances, be provided through either one, or a combination of, the following:
- Utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools,
- Extending the capacity of a school or schools,
- Provision of a new school or schools.
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). While the announcement did not include a new post-primary school for the Skerries school planning area, the requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.
My Department is aware of the enrolment issues in the Skerries area for 2020. In this context, my Department has been in direct contact with the Patron of Skerries Community College in respect of the capacity in the school. Skerries Community College has expressed a willingness to increase its long-term projected enrolment to 1,000 pupils. As a result a permanent extension consisting of 3 general classrooms, 3 SET/Offices, Science Laboratory and prep area, Art room and toilets has been approved by my Department.
Pending the delivery of the permanent extension my Department has also approved interim temporary accommodation consisting of 3 mainstream classrooms with toilets along with the converting an existing space to create a Science laboratory. The Patron of Skerries Community College is currently tendering for the interim accommodation approved. It is expected to have all interim accommodation in place for September 2020