Sunday 20 May 2018

Department discovers 26 schools inflating pupil numbers to boost resources

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Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The Department of Education has caught 26 schools logging overstated enrolment figures in a bid to boost resources Independent.ie has learned.

Schools are required to make an annual return of enrolments as at September 30 each year which is used to determine school staffing and grant allocations.

Some 38 investigations were launched by the department between 2010 and 2016 over concerns that numbers were being misrepported.

In 26 of these the number of pupils was found to have been inflated.

Cases were reported by third parties, school management or as a result of school inspections. In seven instances there was no irregularities found, while five investigations were ongoing.

At primary school level capitation grants of just less than €200 are paid per student to schools.

Earlier this year a former principal at a Gaelscoil in Cork was given a one-year suspended sentence after she pleaded guilty to a number of fraud offences that led to her school being paid almost €250,000 in education grants to which it was not entitled.

Aileen Ní Cheallaigh (36) of Mill Road, Midleton, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to a total of five charges relating to her time as principal of Gaelscoil Mhuscraí in Blarney in 2005-2009.

Her legal representation told the court that she committed the fraud "to keep the show on the road".

The Department of Education refused to comment on the outcome in the cases where false numbers were provided so as not to "prejudice any related process that is ongoing or that may be in contemplation".

A department spokeswoman said:

"In relation of any issue of financial irregularity, including as a result of overstatement of enrolment, it is the policy of the Department to engage with the school management and the patron, ensuring that an investigation is undertaken at school level and that the matter is referred to An Garda Síochána where appropriate.

Schools around the country use the Primary Online Database (POD) system to update data on each individual student.

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