Saturday 23 September 2017

Rush to build as enrolments soared

Education Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Tom Burke
Education Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Tom Burke
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The education system was ill-prepared for a massive surge in enrolments that became evident in primary schools about a decade ago, which came on top of decades of under-investment in school buildings.

Pressure for places grew in the face of high-birth rates and the influx of immigrants since the late 1990s.

In September 2007, it was particularly obvious in north and west Dublin, in suburbs and towns that had expanded during the Celtic Tiger era, where some parents could not get a place for their child in a local school.

Today, there are 80,000 more pupils in primary schools than there were 10 years ago - up to more than 545,000 - an enrolments bulge that is now transitioning to second-level. New schools were needed, and quickly, to cope with demand from young families settling in the new estates and apartment complexes around Dublin. If not a new school, then a major extension to replace dilapidated prefabs on which some principals had been depending for up to 40 years.

The scale of the challenge meant the Department of Education could not rely on the traditional school building programme, often criticised for the stop-start nature of progress through its processes, to deliver the additional accommodation in the necessary time-frames.

Among the responses was the rapid build programme, a feature of which, Education Minister Richard Bruton explained, is that the contractor undertakes the design work and acquires the fire certificate.

Irish Independent

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