Senator Mary White: The Minister of State is very welcome. I am speaking on behalf of the families of Glencullen, Kilternan, Stepaside, Sandyford and Ballyogan who have no secondary school in their area. There are a number of families comprising two and three generations but there is also a burgeoning population in the area. The fact that there is no secondary school in the area is a very serious deficit. The map outlined for the area excludes Glencullen from participating in the new Educate Together school in Stepaside. It means that the residents of Glencullen will have to travel over the mountains and attend the proposed new school in north Wicklow. Excluding children from Glencullen makes no sense. There are two issues in question. The first is that there is no secondary school there and the second is that, ridiculously, the existing map prevents children from Glencullen from attending the Educate Together school in Stepaside. It is a matter of urgency because it is very nerve-wracking for the families. They are very agitated about it.
Deputy Damien English: I thank the Senator for raising this matter as I welcome the opportunity to explain the position with regard to how new schools are planned and to address the issue of the Glencullen catchment area which the Senator wants to be part of the school feeder area for the proposed new Educate Together post-primary school in Stepaside.
First, the school to which the Senator refers is not being provided for the children of Glencullen. The school is being specifically provided for the children of the Ballinteer-Stepaside school feeder area. Glencullen is in a different school feeder area known as the Kilternan school feeder area. I am pleased to be able to tell the Senator that a separate new post-primary school is starting up in September 2016 under the patronage of Educate Together to cater for the children of the Kilternan, Ballybrack-Shankill and Bray school feeder areas. As Glencullen is in the Kilternan school feeder area, this second school will cater for children from that area from September 2016.
I will explain in more depth. For school planning purposes, the country is divided into school feeder areas. A school feeder area has one or more post-primary schools into which designated primary schools feed. School feeder areas do not change as this would defeat the orderly planning of school provision. Due to the unprecedented demographic growth in this country over the past decade or more, 24 new primary schools and 26 new post-primary schools have been or are in the process of being established. The purpose of each of these schools is to meet a specific demographic need within a defined geographic area known as a school feeder area. In other words, the establishment of these schools is to ensure every child living in a particular school feeder area can have access to a physical school place within that area.
As part of the patronage determination processes to establish who will operate the new schools, prospective patrons must commit to enrolling, as a priority, pupils from the area for whom the school is intended. The Department would expect to see this in the enrolment policies for new schools to ensure the children for whom the school is being provided are not displaced by pupils living in another school feeder area who would have their own post-primary provision.
The new post-primary school for the Ballinteer-Stepaside school feeder area is opening in part in response to a need to provide 1,500 extra post-primary school places for children resident in the geographical area in question. The remainder of the places are being provided by a new all-Irish Gaelcholáiste. Separately, a new post-primary school with 1,000 pupil places is required to meet the demographic needs of the Kilternan, Ballybrack-Shankill and Bray school feeder areas. As indicated, the Kilternan school feeder area contains Glencullen.
Again and as I said, consistent with the criteria for establishing all new schools, the patron of this school, which is Educate Together, will be expected to give priority access to children from these feeder areas in its enrolment policy for this school, including children from Glencullen. The Department is working on start-up accommodation for both of these new schools and permanent accommodation will be made available for them as soon as a site has been secured to allow this development. I hope my explanation provides clarity relating to new school provision in the Senator’s area. The criteria for the establishment of new schools and all documentation relating to the award of patronage for individual schools are published on the Department’s website. I think people will find that quite useful so the Senator might be able to advise some of her constituents to have a look at it because it also includes the maps of the areas to be served by the new schools. I hope the information is helpful to the Senator and clarifies her concerns. The fact that two new schools are on the way is good news for both areas.
Senator Mary White: In his reply, the Minister of State said that: “consistent with the criteria for establishing all new schools, the patron of this school, which is Educate Together, will be expected to give priority access to children from these feeder areas in its enrolment policy for this school, including children from Glencullen.” Does this clarify that children from Glencullen can to go this new school?
Deputy Damien English: Yes. A school is planned to open in September 2016. People can apply to go any school but our duty is to make sure there is school of choice in their area. When patrons apply to build and run that school, they must then agree to certain criteria. Under those criteria, patrons must commit to enrolling pupils from the geographical areas for whom the school is intended. There are two schools here. The Glencullen area will be served by the 1,000-pupil school that will open in September 2016. Naturally, if there is space available, people are allowed to apply to the other school but the school being provided for them is the one in their school feeder area.
Senator Mary White: The reply said that “the new post-primary school for the Ballinteer-Stepaside school feeder area is opening in part in response to a need to provide 1,500 extra post-primary school places for children resident in the geographical area in question”. That is the problem. I do not think that includes Glencullen.
Deputy Damien English: They are included in a different feeder area but a school is also being provided for them so two new schools are being provided. Glencullen is in a different school feeder area from the one highlighted by the Senator today. These feeder areas are geographical areas worked out by the Department’s forward planning unit. Our aim is to respond to demographic need. Both feeder areas require a new school to cater for demand.
Senator Mary White: I worked in the school section of the OPW and understand the issue about schools but the map does not make sense so we must address that for families concerned.
Deputy Damien English: We can look at the maps and if there are any specific concerns about them and geography, the Senator might contact the forward planning unit or go through the Minister and me. The feeder areas have been analysed and are based on planning requirements and demographic need. A lot of science goes into them.
Senator Mary White: They are not perfect.
Deputy Damien English: We all have issues locally with historical catchment areas but these are trying to—–
Senator Mary White: If it is a bad decision, it should be reassessed. If it was a business, it would be changed because it does not make sense. It should not be carved in stone.