03 October, 2008 - Colour-coded map technology identifies where new school places are needed most - Minister O'Keeffe

The Minister for Education and Science, Batt O'Keeffe TD, is using state-of-the-art colour-coded mapping technology to help him to anticipate where 100,000 new school places will need to be created over the next seven years.

Minister O'Keeffe said: 'The new Geographical Information System (GIS) allows the Planning and Building Unit of my Department to use an up-to-date technical solution to help in planning the location of schools in the future.

'The colour-coded maps show where the most pressing demand for places will be in seven years so that we can more accurately plan for future accommodation needs based on identified demographic trends.
'The GIS is essentially a digital image of the country using various sources of population-related data that gives us school locations and the location of potential gaps in current or future provision,' said Minister O'Keeffe.
He pointed out that his Department's Forward Planning Unit is now working closely with local authorities in identifying where new schools are needed and in ensuring that they are delivered as quickly as possible.

'The GIS facility includes software for running the colour-coded demographic reports and training was provided in the use of the system. 

'The software can produce various datasets on an ongoing basis that allow us to track changes in local populations. 

'In this way, we are 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.

'The latest information from the Central Statistics Office indicates that the primary school-going population will increase by at least 10pc in the next decade, even with zero net migration and falling fertility rates.

'Meeting this demand will in itself be a major challenge,' said Minister O'Keeffe.

He said the 2007 CSO figure for births was 70,620 - the highest since 1982 and about 30pc higher than the figure for 2000. 

'This will have major implications for enrolment in junior infant classes in 2011 and population growth is projected to be most intense in the areas along the east coast commuter belt, the greater Dublin area and in the areas surrounding our major cities, including Cork.

'This year, more than €586 million will be spent in the school building programme, with one-third of that invested in rapidly developing areas.

'This has resulted in the delivery of 12,000 new school places in 2008 - a record number in any one year.

'This is an unprecedented level of capital investment which reflects this Government's commitment to continuing the programme of sustained investment in primary and post-primary schools. 

'However, it is clear, too, that major challenges are on the horizon in delivering the required school places but I am confident that technology such as the GIS and the continued co-operation of local authorities will allow us to properly plan for the future accommodation needs of our school-going population,' said Minister O'Keeffe.