School numbers: who has more pupils and who has less?


New Department of Education enrolment figures for schools provide a fascinating insight into the options favoured by parents, writes SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor

SOME CLEAR trends emerge from the new enrolment figures published on these pages. The figures track how enrolment patterns have changed in Dublin schools in the past five years. They also give year-on-year figures for State schools across the country.

What do the figures show us? Broadly, there are four overall trends:

FIRST: demand for fee-paying schools in Dublin is remarkably robust, despite the recession.

SECOND: “free” State schools located close to fee-paying schools in south Dublin have seen a surge in pupil numbers since 2004.

THIRD: there is a very mixed picture for some of the famous Christian Brothers schools in Dublin; some have seen a huge fall off in demand, others show signs of revival.

FOURTH: all over the State, community colleges, colleges of further education and many VEC schools are showing a remarkable increase in enrolment.

N ON FEE-PAYING SCHOOLS IN DUBLIN. WHO’S UP? WHO’S DOWN?The trends for some of the big Christian Brothers’ schools are mixed. Pupil numbers at Synge Street are down by 11 per cent since 2004; they have declined by 15 per cent at St David’s, Artane over the same period.

But there are encouraging signs that some CBS schools which saw a fall-off in enrolment are reversing the trend. Pupil numbers at St Vincent’s in Glasnevin are up by 11 per cent since 2004 and by no less than 40 per cent at St Kevin’s College in Ballygall.

Another striking feature is the strong show by “free” schools in south Dublin which are surrounded by fee-paying schools.

Since 2004, pupil numbers are up by 31 per cent at Sion Hill, Blackrock and by 30 per cent at Oatlands College; both schools enjoy a very strong reputation in their local areas.

By contrast, schools which have received negative publicity in the media show a fall in student numbers. Enrolment at Trinity Comprehensive in Ballymun – the subject of a very critical report by Department of Education inspectors two years ago – is down by 11 per cent in the past year.

FEE-PAYING SCHOOLS. WHO’S UP? WHO’S DOWN?Overall, some 27,000 pupils attend fee-paying schools, a figure which has remained broadly constant since 2004.

In the past five years, enrolment has dropped very significantly at Gormanston College, Co Meath, the subject of a very critical report by Department of Education inspectors. Enrolment at the school is down by 35 per cent since 2004 and by no less than 20 per cent in the past year.

Other schools to show a significant decline in the past year include Cistercian College, Roscrea, Tipperary (down 11 per cent) and Sutton Park, Dublin (down 8 per cent).

One of the striking features of the list is how negative publicity in the media can influence demand. Enrolment at Alexandra College, Dublin is down by 5 per cent in the past year. Last year, the school was widely criticised when it removed a Junior Cert student because of a dispute with her parents over unpaid fees.

Schools tend to be more popular if they feature strongly in school league tables.

St Conleth’s in Dublin, which topped the Irish Times feeder school list two years ago, has seen a dramatic 13 per cent increase in enrolment since 2004.

Other schools which have featured strongly in these lists also do well.

They include Bandon Grammar School (enrolment up 15 per cent since 2004); Belvedere College, Dublin (up 12 per cent); and St Michael’s, Dublin (up 7 per cent).

Other schools to show a significant increase in enrolment since 2004 include: Notre Dame, Churchtown, Dublin (up 8 per cent); Gonzaga, Milltown, Dublin (up 6 per cent); St Andrew’s, Booterstown (up 4 per cent); and Loreto, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin (up 3 per cent).

NON FEE-PAYING SCHOOLS OUTSIDE DUBLIN. WHO’S UP? WHO’S DOWN?The stand-out feature here is the strong showing by the community colleges. Several register double digit increases in enrolment over the past year.

Pupil numbers are up year-on-year by 16 per cent at Killarney Community College.

There are also increases at several other community schools or colleges, including St Thomas’s Community College, Wicklow (up 16 per cent); St Kevin’s Community College, Dunlavin, Wicklow (up 15 per cent); and Blessington Community College (up 12 per cent).

Community schools in Cork, Clare and Mayo also record increased enrolment of over 10 per cent.