Yoga, pilates, coding clubs: schools encouraged to make facilities available to the wider community

Any income from renting out their premises will not affect schools’ State grants, capitation fees or other public funding

Minister for Education Norma Foley said: "We want to encourage the use of our school buildings right throughout the week and the calendar year." Photograph: Alan Betson

Schools are being encouraged to make their facilities available to the wider community with guarantees that any income from renting out their premises will not affect their State grants, capitation fees or any other form of departmental funding.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said there is great potential for the 4,000 or so schools across the State to facilitate pilates classes, yoga groups, coding clubs and other activities outside the normal school day.

She said updated procedures on the use of school buildings and sports facilities outside of school hours aim to facilitate access to the wider community to the greatest extent possible.

“Many schools are already making their wonderful facilities available outside of school hours for the benefit of local communities. We want to encourage the use of our school buildings right throughout the week and the calendar year,” she said.


The procedures clarify the steps necessary to establish a creche or preschool within an existing building or on the grounds of a school.

While the main purpose of schools is the provision of primary and post-primary education, she said the Department of Education is supportive of the use of available school property by childcare providers if there is space available and it does not interfere with the day-to-day running of the school.

The new procedures emphasise certain requirements including the need for legal arrangements to be put in place, insurance and that the proposed out-of-school hours activities should not affect the future development of the school.

Schools are advised to seek the permission of their patron before making school facilities available, and guidance notes that “the first priority at all times should be the interest of the school, its teachers and pupils”.

Minister of State for sport Thomas Byrne said he hoped the new guidance would boost sporting options on offer to local communities.

“As a Government, we are working to promote lifelong participation in sport and physical activity and maximising the use of school sports facilities, outside of school hours, is one such way of achieving this aim,” he said.

“School sports facilities are a very important resource and maximising their use outside of school life adds greatly to the sustainability of local communities.”

Separately, a second level teachers’ union criticised Ms Foley and her department for a “shocking cut” to funding per pupil across many schools providing two-week summer programmes for vulnerable students, including those with complex special needs.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said a capitation grant of €30 per student is available to mainstream schools under the 2024 scheme, compared to €45 in 2023. It said this represents a 33 per cent cut in funding for schools.

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said the programme has been announced with “considerable fanfare” earlier this year by the Minister as a way to support, nurture and encourage vulnerable children to continue to engage in fun and inclusive learning.

“ ... at the same time that the Department was stating its goal was to maximise the number of schools and children participating in the programme, the grant to schools was being cut,” he said.

Ms Foley, however, rejected the criticism and said there was no cut in overall funding for the €40 million programme which she said will benefit more than 50,000 children.

She said a key barrier to the participation of schools in the summer programme previously has been the availability of staff, so pay for teachers and special needs assistants was increased last year. This, she said, led to a much larger number of schools taking part, across all school settings.

While the non-pay grant for mainstream primary schools was €45 per child in 2023, the non-pay grant for 2024 has been “reverted” to the €30 rate per week. The non-pay grant for special schools remains at €60 per child per week.

“At the end of the day, this is to benefit students to ensure we have the right staff in place in the right time, and we have to pay the staff appropriately to do that ... I’m surprised that the ASTI don’t appreciate that.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent