The State’s Education Department has warned that the Government will not be able to meet the demands of a record number of schools across the country, including those in deprived areas.
The announcement comes just days after the Department of Education warned of a severe shortage of beds in schools across Ireland and warned the Government to expect a “catastrophic” number of school closures.
It is not just the schools that are at risk.
Schools in the south and north are also at risk, as the Department warns the Government must be prepared to “determine the extent of the impact of a sudden and unprecedented shortfall” in primary and secondary school seats.
“We have no choice but to do what we have to do,” Minister for Education Richard Bruton said at a press conference today.
“If we are going to continue to be able for our children to thrive, we need to have more schools to offer them, and we will do whatever we can to meet those demands,” he added.
A total of 830,000 primary school places were not available last year, which means that an additional 9.8 per cent of primary school seats have not been filled.
This means that there are currently 815,000 places available for primary school pupils in Ireland.
This has left Ireland with one primary school teacher for every 3,000 pupils, which is an increase of more than 10 per cent over the last five years.
In response to the situation, the Department has set up a taskforce to find solutions.
Mr Bruton added that the Department will now “work with the local authorities to provide them with adequate capacity for the new year”.
The Government said it is working with the Department to provide sufficient capacity in the schools.
This will allow for additional teachers to be placed in schools in areas where they are currently not available.
The Department said that in the areas where primary school teachers are needed, they are provided with accommodation and training in the classroom.
However, it said that there will be “a significant demand” for this in some areas of the country.
“It is clear that the demand for primary and early years teachers in areas with an excess number of primary schools teachers is greater than in areas of sufficient primary school capacity,” Mr Bruton explained.
“In many areas of Ireland, the schools are now overcrowded with primary school students, with the number of children being limited to a minimum of three in a school.”
This is unacceptable and we need all schools to be in place to meet these demand conditions.
“The Department has said that the problem will continue until “more than a decade” have passed.
The department has also warned that a number of local authorities will have to shut schools for a significant period of time.
Mr Brinton said the Government has already allocated “significant” funding to schools in the North, South and East of Ireland.”
The Government is committed to providing a range of support and resources to support schools in these regions and we are continuing to work closely with the authorities in those regions to provide support for those schools,” he said.”
Schools will have access to additional beds to meet demand and we remain committed to supporting all schools in their bid to meet their capacity needs,” he continued.
The State’s Department said it will also continue to provide “support to local authorities” in the State to help them meet their demand.”
These funding will enable schools to meet additional needs for teachers and staff, as well as supporting to the wider delivery of local services,” it said.
In the past year, there has been a record high demand for teachers in the region, with over 400,000 teachers applying for employment in 2016.”
Teachers across the State are desperately trying to get on with their jobs and to keep their schools open,” said Mr Brutons Department Spokesperson, Anne Byrne.”
However, the Government is already investing more than €2 billion in schools over the next five years, with more than 7,000 schools currently fully funded.
“Ms Byrne said that more than 2,500 schools are currently receiving “extensive” support from the Department.”
A significant amount of funding is currently earmarked to help schools to keep going,” she added.”
As the Government works to meet our commitment to provide adequate funding, we are working closely with local authorities across the North and South to ensure they have sufficient capacity for their schools.””
Schooling in Ireland is in crisis and the State is prepared to do whatever is necessary to provide schools with the support they need,” she said.