Embargo: Saturday, 15 @16.00
- 43 areas nationwide need new schools
- Department must open twice as many schools compared to previous years
- High birth rate in 2007 has knock-on effect for junior enrolments in 2011
Primary schools are facing an unprecedented level of demand in 2011, with double the number of school openings required, compared to previous years, due to the surge in births in 2007. Educate Together has called on the Minister for Education and Skills to urgently address the need for new schools in 43 areas nationwide.
Paul Rowe, Chief Executive, Educate Together, said:
Parents whose children are due to start primary school in September 2011 need to know that the Department of Education and Skills has plans in place to deal with this unprecedented surge in demand. Educate Together is ready and willing to work closely with the Department of Education and Skills and to assist communities across Ireland to ensure that parents are assured of school places for their children next year.
Speaking at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Newbridge, Paul Rowe warned that immediate and concerted action on a new school build program was now required from the Government to address this issue.
The Department of Education and Skills has identified 43 areas nationwide where population growth means new schools must open in 2011. Research conducted by the Department in 2008 (Projections of full time enrolment at Primary, Second and Third level, 2008 – 2030) noted that the exceptionally high birth rate in 2007 will have consequences for junior enrolments in 2011. We estimate 43 new schools will be needed next year. This is double the amount of schools which have been opened in any given year in the past.”
New school announcements are traditionally made by the Department of Education and Skills in February, which allows six months in order to establish the school and recruit staff. The volume of new school openings required in 2011 is likely to place major strains on the resources of school patrons.
Mr Rowe added:
This situation is unprecedented. It is unthinkable for the Minister to wait until February to announce these new school openings without any consultation. I am appealing to Minister Coughlan to accelerate the necessary reform of Departmental procedures and invite consultations now with school patrons to address the accommodation challenges ahead.
In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Rowe also called on the Minister to introduce a series of much needed reforms in the education sector. He identified the re-establishment of parental choice in the process of new school recognition, enrolment and feeder school policies, the content and format of the second level curriculum as areas in urgent need of reform.
Launching Educate Together’s new five-year development programme to significantly expand its network of schools, Mr Rowe stated it was time to act on the introduction of real choice in school provision through a significant increase in the availability of multi-denominational schools. He went on to say that Educate Together would be happy to work with the Department to help effect the broadening of choice that parents are loudly and consistently calling for.
Paul Rowe concluded:
The Tánaiste has a real opportunity to be a strong advocate for change in Irish education. We are heartened by her comments on taking office in relation to the Government’s continued commitment to and investment in education. We in Educate Together are willing to assist in the implementation of long overdue reforms which are urgently required to transform the Irish education sector
The keynote speaker at the AGM was Catherine McGuinness, President of the Law Reform Commission, who praised Educate Together’s contribution to Irish education, by saying
‘The advent of Educate Together in the mid ’70s was a catalyst for change in Irish education. To this day they continue to advocate for innovation in teaching methodologies and reform of our education system showing a dedication to Ireland’s youth that has to be respected’
Educate Together opened its first school in 1977. It now operates 58 schools in Ireland and has long standing applications to open its first second level schools.
For further information contact:
Head of Communications, Educate Together
Tel: 01 4292500
Mob: 086 8323017