New national school opens its doors - for just one pupil
A brand new national school has opened in an area of rapid population growth, but it has only one pupil.
The Department of Education insists that there are enough children in the area to justify the new Scoil Aoife in west Tallaght, Co Dublin.
When fully developed, the plan is for the school to have 16 classrooms with a capacity to cater for in the region of 440 pupils. But as the new term gets underway this week, principal Stacey McAuley has only one pupil - a girl in junior infants' class.
Scoil Aoife is one of a number of new schools approved for this part of south Dublin in recent years to cope with the expanding population.
Commenting on the school's unusual situation, Ms McAuley said by the time Scoil Aoife was announced "a lot of people had registered their children elsewhere but there is a lot of interest in the area.
"This is how a lot of community schools start off and then they grow".
Ms McAuley confirmed last night that parents have expressed interest in sending their children to the school and that she expects to enrol more in coming weeks.
Scoil Aoife is a new-style of State-operated, community national school, and comes under the umbrella of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDETB).
It was one of three schools that the department announced in 2011 would open in this part of Dublin The school does not have a permanent premises yet and has opened in temporary accommodation in Brookfield Youth and Community Centre.
According to Ms McAuley: "The school is really beautiful and getting better everyday."
Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB opened applications for enrolments in Scoil Aoife, which is multi-denominational and co-educational, last February.
While other schools in the area have enrolled this year in significant numbers, similar demand was not there for Scoil Aoife.
A Department of Education spokesperson said it was satisfied the school was required to help to meet the projected demographic growth in the area.
The department uses child benefit data to identify emerging demand for school-going places on a localised area basis and the spokesperson said it was "clear that sufficient demand exists in this area over the coming years to justify the development of this school".
The department spokesperson said it was not unusual for new schools to commence with low numbers and for enrolments to increase incrementally once the school is established.
"The school in question is expected to have higher numbers in the coming weeks.
"The department will be meeting with the management authority early next week to discuss the enrolment situation for this year and next year".
With only one teacher, issues arise over meeting child protection requirements, but the department said it had sought, and been granted assurances by the school authorities that there would be compliance with child protection guidelines.
An enrolment of 20 pupils is generally required in any school before a second teaching post is appointed.