On Tuesday, I raised the need for a Secondary School in Moycullen. Unfortunately, from the Minister for Education’s reply, this will be a slow burner

Senator Seán Kyne

I welcome the Minister of State. I am delighted to speak about schools in my area of Moycullen, County Galway. Some people describe Moycullen as a village but in reality it is a small town at this stage. It was certainly identified as such in the draft county development plan. It is close to Galway city but has its own community close to the amenities of the National University of Ireland Galway, NUIG, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, GMIT, University Hospital Galway, UHG, Galway Bay, and the theatre, nightlife and everything else in the city. It is, therefore, a very popular place to live. The growth projections and patterns are going one way, that is, increasing.

Moycullen has a growing population with four schools in the community, Scoil Mhuire, Scoil Cholmáin Tuairíní, Tullykyne and Scoil Bhaile Nua. There are, however, nearly 700 children from the community attending secondary school outside the area. The majority go to Galway city, some to An Spidéal and a small number to Oughterard. For historical reasons and by virtue of its Gaeltacht status, Moycullen is included in the An Spidéal-Indreabhán school planning area.

This is despite the vast majority of students not attending secondary school in that school planning area. Is it normal that the majority of pupils in a village do not attend a school in the school planning area in which the village is situated? It makes no sense to me. Is this preventing the development of a post-primary school?

The present requirement to travel outside the community to attend a post-primary school means buses and cars on the road. It means a minimum travel time of one hour a day, which is five hours per week, for the students. Bus tickets are an added cost that parents would not incur if there was a second level school in their community. If there are two kids in a family, the parents might be paying €600 a year for those two pupils. Most of all, it is a right of children living in an area to be educated in their own community, a right never afforded pupils in Moycullen. It is an example of a community that was once just a crossroads and has, from the 1980s when the first two housing estates were built until today, seen an explosion of growth.

Tá éileamh mór ar mheánscoil i Maigh Cuilinn. Tá formhór na ndaltaí ag freastail ar mheánscoileanna cathrach na Gaillimhe. Níl mórán ciall go bhfuil Maigh Cuilinn mar chuid de limistéar scoil pleanála an Spidéil agus Indreabháin. An cheist atá agam ná an bhfuil sé seo ag cur bac ar sheans Maigh Cuilinn meánscoil a fháil?

People in Moycullen are crying out for a second level school in their community. It is a fast-growing area with capacity for growth in its sewerage system. The sewerage plant is at 50% capacity so there is capacity for additional growth and development. The construction of a bypass, starting this autumn, will make the community safer and more popular. I know the Department is conducting an ongoing study, an updated demographic exercise, on school needs across the country. It was at an advanced stage last year so I am wondering if there is an update on that.

As I said, the community of Moycullen wishes to have its own school and it deserves one. Growth patterns are only going one way, as I have said, that is, towards an increase in population. It is only right and proper that rather than having, as I said, up to 700 students a day travelling mostly to Galway city – and that number is only going to grow – a school should be provided in our area. I look forward to the reply from the Minister of State.

Deputy Josepha Madigan

I thank the Senator for raising the matter of school places in Moycullen. It gives me an opportunity to set out my Department’s position on school place requirements in the area. The Senator may be aware that in order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data in a way that takes account of the significant local and regional variations in demographic trends and enrolment projections, my Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas. As the Senator correctly pointed out, Moycullen is in the Spiddal-Inverin school planning area.

In most places, school planning areas were based on traditional school catchment areas where all primary schools were assigned to a post-primary feeder area which was typically a population centre or town containing one or more post-primary schools. The school planning areas were developed for use with my Department’s geographic information system in 2008 and, with the introduction of small areas in census 2011, these areas were amended to align with census small areas. The current school planning areas take account not only of local groupings of schools but also of natural boundaries, census small areas and other local conditions.

My Department’s anticipation of post-primary school place requirements within each school planning area is based on the level of enrolment at each standard class in primary schools and the historical transfer patterns between primary and post-primary schools. Information supplied by the local authorities in respect of current or planned residential development activity is also considered. Where data indicate that school place requirements are increasing, the availability of existing or planned unused capacity within existing schools is considered in the first instance. If sufficient unused capacity is not available, provision may be made by extending the capacity of an existing school or by providing a new school.

An analysis of the transfer patterns from primary schools in the wider Moycullen area to post-primary schools indicates that the majority of such pupils enrol in post-primary schools in the Galway city school planning area, which is immediately adjacent to the Spiddal-Inverin school planning area. The Department has identified a significant volume of current or planned unused capacity in schools in Galway city. This includes a number of major capital projects which are providing additional capacity. This capacity across schools in Galway city is expected to be sufficient to address projected emerging requirements in that school planning area as well as to facilitate a continuation of the enrolment patterns from primary schools in the Moycullen area. In that context, my Department has determined that there is currently no identified requirement for the establishment of a new post-primary school in Moycullen. Nevertheless, it will continue to keep school place requirements across the country, including in the Spiddal-Inverin and Galway city school planning areas, under review. Furthermore, my officials will continue to engage with officials in Galway County Council and Galway City Council in the context of their development plans.

It may be interesting for the Senator to note that according to the demographics about which he inquired, there is an anticipated population increase of approximately 18,655 for the general Galway area between 2021 and 2028. The 2016 population of Moycullen, as the Senator is probably aware, was 1,704. There is an anticipated growth of 350 by 2028. There are, according to Galway County Council, 272 housing units with planning permission in the Moycullen area but they are not yet complete. It is not expected that the full number of these will be delivered in the short term and their impact on school place requirements should be considered in the context of a distinct downward trend in demographics at planning level which will roll forward to post-primary level over the medium term.

Senator Seán Kyne

I thank the Minister of State for her reply. I am somewhat disappointed that I have not received a hard copy of it but I am sure it will be circulated or I will get one later.

The Minister of State said there is no identified requirement for additional school places. This is the issue and problem. Moycullen has always sent its students to Galway city because there has been no other option. A small number of students go to An Spidéal and a small number to Oughterard. The population is continuing to grow and people have to pay the added cost of bus tickets into Galway city to attend the secondary school, a distance of 6, 7 or 8 miles, depending on the family’s location in the parish. That is not fair.

I ask the Department to look again at the growth projections because I believe they underestimate the levels of development and planning permission and, as I said, the capacity for growth in the community. It is only going to go in one direction and we need to plan now to ensure there will be a secondary school in Moycullen. I ask the Minister of State to re-engage with the local authority and local politicians to assess and discuss the need for a secondary school in the area.

Deputy Josepha Madigan

I thank the Senator. I will take his comments back to the Minister, Deputy Foley, and the Department. I hear what he is saying and his concern that the growth projections are underestimated. The 2020 demographic projections, being the most recent, indicate a projected demand for approximately 50 additional post-primary places in the Spiddal-Inverin area by 2024. An increase of approximately 1,000 post-primary pupils by 2024 is projected in Galway city. In summary, over the longer term, it is anticipated that Galway city will be a primary centre for growth whereas future demand for school places in Moycullen is not likely to increase significantly. I understand from what the Senator is saying that he takes issue with that assertion. I can give him a breakdown of those demographics. I have heard his concerns and what he has said about Moycullen and the fact that it is growing, in his view. He has explained that it would be nice if children could go to a school that is in their particular area. I will bring that contribution back to the Department.