The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the County and City Managers, Association (CCMA) on the acquisition of sites for new schools.
The MoU formalises a partnership between the Department of Education and Skills and local authorities so that the most appropriate sites for new schools are acquired quickly and smoothly in areas which are experiencing a rapid increase in school going pupils.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister Quinn said: "By 2017, we will have an extra 70,000 children and young people in the education system. It is a priority of this government that we ensure every child has a physical place at school."
"It is vitally important that we work with the education partners, but also other stakeholders in the public sector, to ensure our ambitious building programme, which will see the establishment of 40 new schools and the provision of new buildings or major extensions for more than 200 existing schools is implemented."
"This is why we are formalising links with local authorities to acquire the best possible sites for schools," said Minister Quinn.
The Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O'Sullivan, TD, is supporting this agreement.
Minister O'Sullivan said, “Local Authorities are well placed to identify suitable sites for these new schools. This MoU will build on the existing code of practice for planning authorities which enables the planning process to facilitate the provision of schools in a timely manner and will assist Minister Quinn in ensuring that the delivery of these much needed sites is speeded up."
"I welcome this example of co-operation across the public sector and am confident that together we can ensure that schools are provided in time to meet the rapid growth in demand for school places. The agreement also follows through on the Programme for Government commitment to build strong links between local authority planning and educational provision," Minister O’Sullivan concluded.
On behalf of the CCMA, Michael Walsh, Waterford City Manager, said "Schools are an integral part of our cities, towns and villages and we welcome the opportunity to formalise our role in assisting the Department of Education and Skills in identifying the best place for new schools.
We recognise the importance of schools in social infrastructure and appreciate the sense of urgency that is needed to ensure school buildings are provided in a timely and coordinated fashion."
Minister Quinn concluded by thanking his colleague, Minister O'Sullivan, and the CCMA for their previous work with him and said that he looked forward to even closer cooperation after today’s agreement.
Notes for Editors
The new Memorandum of Understanding formalises the ongoing cooperation and coordination between the DES, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the local authorities in relation to ensuring the implementation of the school building programme.
It is forecast that there will be an additional 45,000 primary school pupils and 25,000 post primary pupils in the system by the start of the school year 2017/18.
In June 2011, Minister Quinn announced that 20 new primary schools and 20 new post primary schools would be established over the coming six years as part of the response to this increased enrolment.
In March 2012, Minister Quinn published details of a €1.5 billion investment programme in school buildings over the next five years.
At present, 61 major school building projects are on site, with a further 48 forecast to go on site over the course of 2012.
The provision of a suitable site is a necessary prerequisite for the provision of a school building. Local authorities have experience of, and expertise in, acquiring land for the provision of roads, water services, etc. and so it is proposed that they would use this experience and expertise to identify and negotiate the acquisition of land for school building purposes.
In their role as planning authorities, local authorities will also be able to identify sites where the provision of a school will fit in with the proper planning and development of an area, relative to the location of housing and other social infrastructure.