Schools plan adds 7,500 places
Unions say 15 new schools, 3 extensions barely adequate to meet demand
A record 70,000 new pupils will enter the system in 2013, says INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Fifteen new schools built under a rapid delivery scheme* are opening across the State this autumn and three more have undergone extensions, together providing almost 7,500 permanent school places.
But this is barely enough to keep up with growing demand, according to a teachers’ union.
The 18 new and extended schools have been pushed through under the “rapid delivery programme”, a fast-track scheme launched in 2007 to deliver schools quickly in areas experiencing rapid growth, where there is no existing school or the existing provision is unable to meet demand.
Together, the 14 primary and four postprimary schools will provide 7,488 permanent places, the Department of Education said. The pupils would benefit from “modern, energy-efficient buildings and improved learning environments”, a spokeswoman said.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation argues, however, that the extra 10,000 new pupils starting school this year would cause more overcrowding in primary schools.
A record 70,000 new pupils will enter the system in 2013, said INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan. Irish primary classes were already the second-most crowded in the EU, with an average of 24.5 pupils, she said. The EU average is 20, and Luxembourg is the country with the lowest at 15.
The Irish figure was an average, and at the most crowded end of the scale Ireland had more than 100,000 children in classes of 30 pupils, she said.
The largest class sizes were found in counties Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. Other schools with large class sizes were found in urban centres in Limerick, Cork and Waterford.
While the new school places were very welcome, they are barely able to keep up with the rise in pupil numbers, said Peter Mullan of the INTO.
“That is just keeping pace with the demand for more spaces in a growing population,” he said.
All but six of the new schools are ready for use, but of these six, four are only days away from completion, the department said. Another, in Navan, is due for completion later this month and another, in Carlow, by late October.
Nine of the new schools are in constituencies where a Government Minister holds a seat.
The department uses a geographical information system to assess the likely changes to the schoolgoing population in those areas, the spokeswoman said.
Carlow Educate Together NS Co Carlow
Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin, Clonakilty Co Cork
Carrigaline Educate Together NS Co Cork
Scoil Phádraig Naofa, Rochestown Co Cork
Portlaoise Educate Together NS Co Laois
Gaelscoil Phortlaoise Co Laois
Maryborough NS, Portlaoise Co Laois
St Francis NS, Blackrock Co Louth
St Stephen’s NS, c/o St Martha’s College, Johnstown Co Meath
Gaelscoil Inis Córthaidh, Enniscorthy Co Wexford
Greystones Educate Together NS Co Wicklow
Luttrellstown Community College, Blanchardstown Dublin 15
Lusk Community College, Lusk Co Dublin
Coláiste Bhaile Chláir, Claregalway Co Galway
Coláiste na Mí, Navan Co Meath
Gaelscoil Moshíólóg, Bóthar Charn an Bhua, Guaire Co Wexford
Scoil Choilm Community National School, Porterstown Road, Clonsilla Dublin 15
Skerries Educate Together NS, Barnageeragh Cove, Skerries Co Dublin
*This article was amended to clarify aspects of the school delivery scheme on September 3rd, 2013