11November, 2009 - Opening remarks by the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O'Keeffe TD, at a presentation on the Geographical Information System for school building planning in Department of Education and Science, Dublin

Good morning and welcome to all of you.

The multi-annual budget for school buildings this year is €614 million.

That breaks down into €423 million for primary schools and €191 million for post-primary schools.   

Since taking office last May, I've announced 78 large-scale projects to start construction this year. 

These projects will provide permanent primary school places for over 16,250 students in 29 new schools and 28 extended and modernised schools. 

A further 14,075 students at post-primary level will benefit from 10 new schools and 11 major extension and refurbishment projects. 

This year, almost 1,180 projects in 967 schools got funding under the Summer Works Scheme. 

So it's clear that this Government is prioritising the school building programme.

And we want to build on our record.

To help us to do that, we're using state-of-the-art mapping technology to predict the number of extra pupils in high-growth areas around the country and the number of classrooms that will be needed to accommodate them.

The Geographical Information System is essentially a digital image of the country using various sources of population-related data to show where schools will be needed.

It helps us to strategically plan our school-building programme in response to demographic demand.

We know we have sharply rising pupil numbers and that targeted investments in school buildings will be needed in specific pressure points over the coming years.

Data available to the Department shows that primary school pupil numbers will grow from 498,914 this year to more than 590,000 by 2020.

The projections for post-primary show an increase from about 339,000 students now to over 407,000 by 2020.

The challenge, then, is to identify the locations where the school-going cohort will increase most significantly so that school accommodation can be put in place to meet demand. 

The GIS is helping us to properly plan for Ireland's changing demographics by identifying priority areas and the likely school accommodation requirements up to and including the 2014/2015 school year.

This presentation will identify some of these priority areas and demonstrate how combining up-to-date technology and statistical data is helping us to tailor the school building programme to meet the needs of communities with rising enrolments.

I'll now ask my officials in the Building Unit - Assistant Secretary Frank Wyse, Principal Officer Tony Dalton and Assistant Principal Richard Dolan - to take you through a short presentation on the GIS.

Thank you.