Kildare South TD’s will meet with Jan O’Sullivan on the matter later today and I look forward to attending the promised meeting between the SKET campaign group and the Minister to discuss our in depth research of educational needs in South Kildare. The KWETB (former VEC) have been included in discussions with the department around possible extensions. While extra places are welcome, a policy of extension with one stakeholder fails to take into account choice in education or the need for more ASD units locally. Only by including all stakeholders in the process will we get the positive educational outcomes and facilities that children in our locality deserve.
The Education Review is expected to put particular emphasis on South Kildare. The chronic shortage of secondary school places for children in Newbridge and its surrounding areas in Kildare is a cause of major concern for parents and teachers alike. My own recent research during the local election campaign highlighted a serious shortage of approximately secondary school places in the Newbridge locality alone. The Educate Together campaign, SKET2L, was formed by a group of like-minded parents who were concerned by the lack of school places in the area. They are also campaigning for more choice with regards to provision of second level education and patronage.
I believe that the issue is only going to get worse.
Local analysis is backed up by The Central Statistics Office with figures projecting the number of primary school-aged children is set to increase by up to 100,000 by 2021. These figures further highlight greater growth will be experienced by the mid-east area of Ireland, while Dublin and many other urban areas will slow down. In fact Kildare will be one of the few population growth areas for Ireland over the next six years.
This is backed up further by Kildare County Council who are in the middle of preparing their Local Economic and Community Plan 2016-2022. In their baseline report, they alluded to the fact that the Kildare population has not yet peaked. This provides further evidence that there will be medium to long term pressure on school places in the County.
In respect of the Educate Together campaign in South Kildare, if you look at the surrounding areas of Newbridge, KildareTown’s Second level Community School is enrolling at capacity and by 2019 the Kildare Town Educate Together National School will have its first primary school children leaving to look for a second level school. By 2021 the Educate Together National School will have a double-stream of children leaving their national school level. To add to these numbers Gaelscoil Mhic Aodha in the same area, will also have their first group of children leaving the national school system and they too will be looking for a second level place in Kildare Town. At this stage there will be a very large shortfall of school places at second level for this town.
Plans for 500 new places in St. Conleth’s Community College and an extension for the Patrician Boys School in Newbridge will not be sufficient enough to cater for the demand for places with more choice in the second level education system in Newbridge and the wider South Kildare area.