25 February, 2008 - New technology to help with future planning for schools

Department continues to take a proactive approach to the provision of modern school accommodation - Minister Hanafin

The Department of Education and Science plans to use new technologies to map and plan school locations in order to meet the increasing school going population. It is predicted that the school going population will increase by some 100,000 over the coming years, raising the primary school population to well over 500,000.

The Department is today advertising in national newspapers for tenders to supply a Geographical Information System (GIS). This system will allow the Forward Planning Section of the Department to use an up to date technical solution to help in planning the location of schools in the future. Similar systems of mapping locations and population data are already in use by a number of large organisations, including Local Authorities around the country.

Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin T.D., today said the "Forward Planning Section of the Department is identifying the areas where significant additional accommodation will be needed for 2009 and onwards. This is being done in close consultation with local authorities."

Under the Programme for Government commitment, the Department has established a Unit which is to:

  • liaise with local authorities
  • identify where new schools are needed
  • ensure that they are delivered in the fastest possible timeframe.

Minister Hanafin said that a GIS system will be capable of "delivering a map of the country with school locations and demographic trends. The Department already uses a number of sources of information to plan for the correct level of school accommodation. By using the new technologies that are available now, we will be able to develop a digital picture of the country, using various sources of population related data that will give school locations and the location of potential gaps in current or future provision.

We are looking at using the best of the new technologies that are available and are in use in large organisations across the country, to help us in the efficient delivery of school places in rapidly developing areas of the country that are experiencing increases in school going numbers."

It is expected that the contract awarded will include the software for running such reports, training in using the software and provision of various datasets on an ongoing basis that will allow the Department to track changes in local populations. Minister Hanafin said "in this way trained staff will be able to feed relevant population and school related information into the GIS and produce maps showing the catchments area of each school and the rate of population growth in their area."

Minister Hanafin said that demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years mainly due to the rapid expansion in teacher numbers particularly in the area of special needs, the growth in the school-going population in rapidly developing areas, including the impact of immigration, and the demands to cater for diversity through the recognition of new Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools.

"Major progress has been made in meeting all of those needs. What we are doing now is using all available technologies to better plan into the future, as we spend over €4.5 billion on the school building programme over the coming years to ensure that school places are available where needed" concluded Minister Hanafin.