Parents’ concern over ‘lack’ of school places in commuter belt areas

Department of Education insists there is a school place for any child who needs it

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, said he was aware of a number of cases in Ashbourne, Co Meath, where parents  were unable to get a junior infant place at a primary school in the area.

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, said he was aware of a number of cases in Ashbourne, Co Meath, where parents were unable to get a junior infant place at a primary school in the area.

 

The Department of Education has insisted there is a school place for any child who needs it following concerns among some parents in commuter belt areas who have been unable to source places.

An Oireachtas education committee heard on Wednesday that some parents in Meath and Kildare had been told that all school places locally were full.

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, said he was aware of a number of cases in Ashbourne, Co Meath, where parents – especially those from non-Irish backgrounds – were unable to get a junior infant place at a primary school in the area.

“Some of the parents affected have now been given a list of schools in the Meath area where there are school places available, but they are between 10 and 18 kilometres away,” he said. “That’s simply not good enough.”

He said the population in the Ashbourne area had expanded rapidly in recent years and that principals of local schools had been seeking additional school places in the locality without success.

Secondary places

The committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin, also said there were concerns in the south Kildare area, where parents were struggling to find secondary places for their children due to over-subscribed schools.

In response, a spokesman for the Department of Education said it would ensure there was a school place or adequate educational provision for every child in the country that meets their needs.

“This includes meeting the September 2018 accommodation needs of primary school pupils in the Ashbourne area and post-primary school pupils in the south Kildare area that was referenced at today’s Oireachtas committee meeting,” he said.

He added that the department has had “extensive engagement” with stakeholders in the Ashbourne area, while a decision will be made in October in relation to how best to meet future accommodation needs in these areas.

The spokesman said that while there would always be popular schools, it was the case that every year the department ensured that there was a school place or adequate educational provision for every child that meets their needs.

He added that the department was building more schools and providing more additional school places than ever before.

“We have doubled the number of additional school places being provided since 2010. In 2010, some 9,000 school places were created. In 2017, we built approximately 18,800,” he said, in a statement.

As part of Project Ireland 2040 programme, the department said it had secured an €8.4 billion investment programme in school buildings. This compared with just under €5 billion for the previous 10-year period (2008-2017).

“This significant increase in funding will enable provision to be continued for demographics while also enabling a refocusing towards refurbishment projects,” the spokesman said.