Educate Together has welcomed the planned investment of €3.1bn in upgrading and expanding the schools network by 2016 but warns that more will be needed.
In November 2008, CSO figures for registered births and the Department of Education’s own Geographical Information System anticipated the need for 100,000 new primary places by 2015. However yesterday’s Capital Review announced provision for 80,000 new places – 10,000 of which will be in temporary accommodation.
Commenting on the revised funding figures Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe stated ‘The Department of Education and Skills has been planning since 2008 for a 100,000 surge in primary school places up to 2015, approximately 14,000 per annum. Yesterday’s announcement has both reduced the number of places planned for and extended their provision over an additional year. Educate Together is concerned that this will place enormous pressure on the Department’s ability to meet the demand for places we all know is there. As every child in the state has a right to an education this apparent shortfall has to be addressed and additional investment may well be required.’
Educate Together is the patron body for Ireland’s multidenominational primary schools and has opened 14 new schools since 2008. It estimates that up to 40 new schools will be required for 2011 alone and is calling for the publication of the Department of Education and Skills’ immediate plans for new schools at the earliest opportunity.
Paul Rowe again ‘We are committed to working with the Department on the upcoming new school programme and look forward to doing our part in the challenge of meeting the state’s educational needs. To this end we are requesting the publication at the earliest opportunity by the Department of detail on how the €272m allocated to primary education in 2011 will be spent. It is vital that a new process for the recognition of new schools at primary and second-level is put in place, so that patrons can plan properly and schools can be opened professionally and with the full support of parents”.
The allocation of school patronage is currently at the discretion of the Minister and made on the recommendation of Department officials. In addition to the requirement to provide new school places the Department also has to make allowances for renewed calls by educationalists and parents for the provision of choice in education provision beyond the predominant denominational model.