Primary pupil numbers set to fall by 24% by 2036
Dublin set to record decline of 28 per cent in primary schoolgoing children
Some of the steepest decreases in enrolments are set to be in the west and southwest (-29 per cent), Dublin (-28 per cent), midwest and southeast (-24 per cent). Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Pupil numbers in primary schools are projected to drop by a quarter over the next decade and a half, according to official estimates.
A Department of Education report says the school population at primary level has peaked at an all-time high this year with more than half a million pupils.
However, it forecasts that primary numbers will drop across all regions between now and 2036. The scale of the decline will be among the most acute in Dublin.
The figures are based on State projections which assume there will be a “medium” level of migration and a continued decline in the fertility rate.
It also assumes population growth in Dublin will more likely be among young singles rather than families, with young families continuing to move out of the capital to more affordable housing in the other regions.
While total enrolments nationally at primary level are projected to drop by 24 per cent, some of the steepest decreases are set to be in the west and southwest (-29 per cent), Dublin (-28 per cent), midwest and southeast (-24 per cent).
Numbers are likely to drop at a slower rate in Dublin commuter-belt counties such as Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow (-12 per cent) and the midlands (-13 per cent).
When the projection range is forecast out to 2050, the number of children at primary school age is projected to increase once again.
The picture is different at second level where numbers nationally are set to grow over the next six years as the demographic bulge at primary passes into post-primary.
However, this is set to be followed by a decline over the following 12 years.
Over the period to 2036, this is projected to result in a decline nationally in pupil numbers at second level of about 10 per cent.
When broken down by region, the results indicate Dublin will experience marginal falls of just 3 per cent (-2,327 pupils) while numbers in the southeast are projected to fall by 17 per cent (-6.067).
Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the projection of enrolments was a hugely important piece of work, especially in the context of the “massive” investment in school-building projects under Project Ireland 2040.
“Accurate data is essential for decision-making and the analysis in the report will play an important role in future planning at a regional level for our primary and post-primary schools over the coming years,” he said.
“In 2019 and 2020 we will be providing new schools, extensions, new classrooms and other facilities to support about 60,000 schoolchildren and we will be investing more than €1.2 billion over the two years in the bricks and mortar of our schools.”
School enrolments are heavily dependent on past and future births which show large variations over time.
Births peaked in 2009 with 75,554 babies. The figure stood at 61,338 in 2018 and the birth rate is projected to fall again by 2027 when 53,890 babies are projected to be born.
Projections after 2027 point to a gradual increase in the numbers of births.