IT'S a sign of the rapidly changing times in the 'new' Ireland. Next year up to 20 multi-denominational schools will open compared with only two Roman Catholic and one Protestant primary school.
At present, there are around 40 multi-denominational schools under the patronage of Educate Together, which yesterday announced that it had submitted formal notifications of its intention to apply to open more schools next September.
"These notifications are necessary as a patron can only make a formal application to open a school if notification forms have been submitted," said a spokesperson.
"If such applications are successful, Educate Together will only proceed to open schools if the Department of Education and Science provides a reasonable level of funding to support the professional services necessary to allow a school to open in a responsible and efficient manner and where there is a realistic and credible guarantee that permanent buildings are being provided for the proposed school," added the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the department is seeking to build "between 15 and 48-classroom schools" as well up to six additional schools with at least 16 classrooms in Dublin suburbs which are experiencing a population boom.
"The main sites will be rapidly developing areas throughout Ireland, but mainly in the greater Dublin commuter belt," a tender for the massive building project states.
And in order to ensure that schools keep up with demand, the building companies will be asked to construct more classrooms on the same site if it is deemed necessary.
Building will commence in February and the schools must be ready to open for the new term in September. Some will be permanent buildings but others will be temporary structures to help cope with the growing numbers of school-going children. If second buildings are commissioned, they must be completed by September 2009.
The new Fine Gael spokesperson on education, Brian Hayes, yesterday backed a call by national school teachers for a Forum on Education to discuss the future of education in Ireland.