28 October, 2019 - Minister McHugh welcomes Publication of Regional Enrolment Projections in Primary and Post-primary schools

Pupil numbers in primary schools in Dublin are projected to fall by 28% by 2036 while those in the Mid-East will fall by just 12.7%

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. has today (Monday 28th October 2019) welcomed the publication of a new statistical report which sets out changes in pupil and student numbers in the run up to 2040.

Enrolment projections in primary and post-primary schools cover each region of the country for the period 2019-2036.

The report shows that the number of children in primary schools rose substantially every year from 439,560 in 2000 before peaking last year with 567,772 pupils in primary schools.

The analysis shows that the pattern of enrolments in primary schools will change in the coming years with a projected fall of 134,000 before reaching a low of 433,795 in 2036.

The study has found that annual falls will average 10,650 pupils a year between 2021 and 2028.

However, when the projection range is forecast back out to 2051 the number of children aged 5 to 12 is projected to increase once again and reach 497,200 by 2051.

Commenting on the report Minister McHugh said: “The projection of enrolments is 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.

“In 2019 and 2020 we will be providing new schools, extensions, new classrooms and other facilities to support about 60,000 school children and we will be investing more than €1.2 billion over the two years in the bricks and mortar of our schools.”

The statistical report shows that the fall and subsequent rise in enrolments will not be evenly distributed across the country.

It predicts that enrolments in primary schools in Dublin will fall by 28%, while in the Mid-East region, which includes commuter counties, enrolments will fall by just 12.7%, and the Midlands by just 12.4%.

The regional enrolment projections are based on a modelling scenario known as “Dublin Outflow” which assumes more people will move out of the city into the suburban and commuter belt areas than those moving into the city.

Further results show:


  • Just over a quarter of all pupils attend schools in the Dublin region with 144,651 pupils attending 496 schools in the region 2018.
  • Dublin, the Mid-East (which includes most of the commuter belt) and the Midlands account for almost half of all enrolments with 276,062 pupils (48.6%) but just 35% of schools.
  • By 2036 the Dublin region will see enrolments fall by almost 40,000 pupils (28%),
  • The Mid-East will see an overall fall of just under 12,000 (12.7%) by 2036 but this will follow a low of 77,436 in 2031 before a recovery again to 81,825 in 2036.
  • Enrolment numbers in the Midlands will also see a recovery following a low of 32,704 in 2031 to 33,807 in 2036.

Post primary

  • On the post primary side enrolments will follow a pattern of distinct increases out to 2024 followed by one of decreases.
  • Between 2018 and 2024 enrolments in Dublin post primary schools will increase by 13,622 overall (15.1%).
  • In the West region student numbers will increase by just 2,011 pupils (5.9%), while the South-East will see numbers rise by 2,202, or (6.3%).
  • Looking out beyond 2024, enrolments will fall sharply in Dublin up to 2036, down 15,989 over the 12 years, with falls increasing from 2032 onwards.
  • Other regions, particularly the Mid-East and the Midlands, the two regions which benefit most from the ‘Dublin Outflow’ model assumption will see the peak fall in enrolments in 2032 before falls lessen off.

Notes to Editors

A link to the report is available here: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Statistics/projections/regional-projections-of-full-time-enrolment-primary-and-second-level-2019-2036.pdf

Further results:

  • The data in this report builds on the state projections of enrolments published in 2018 and was modelled on the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Regional Projections published in June 2019.
  • An important component of regional projections is the assumptions around internal migration.
  • For the purposes of this report, the Department has chosen to focus on the ‘Dublin Outflow’ scenario only. 
  • It was felt that under the ‘Dublin Inflow’ scenario Dublin may grow at the expense of the other regions (and Brexit uncertainty is a factor), this growth is more likely to be among young singles rather than families, and the more likely pattern among young families is a continuing move out of Dublin to more affordable housing in the other regions.
  • 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.