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No secondary school places for some first-years amid enrolment ‘crisis’

Some pupils may be forced to stay at home and avail of home tutoring due to shortage of places

Parents in part of Kildare, Wicklow, Dublin, Galway and Cork have been unable to secure first-year secondary school places in their local areas in advance of the coming academic year.

The Department of Education has confirmed that it is aware of enrolment pressures in these areas and has asked oversubscribed secondary schools to share application data to determine if they can, between them, cater for pupils seeking school places.

It says demographic pressures and other factors, such as duplication of applications and students from outside local areas, are driving a requirement for additional school places.

Many parents in these areas say the situation is at crisis point and worry that children on long waiting lists for local schools face the prospect of lengthy commutes outside their areas in order to secure first year places next September.


In more extreme cases, students may end up being taught at home under a home tuition grant scheme, which provides funding towards the provision of a compensatory educational service for children.

The department has confirmed that, in the north Kildare area alone last year, 16 children who were unable to access oversubscribed schools were assigned these grants.

In north Kildare local public representatives estimate that dozens of students are without school places for the coming September in areas such as Maynooth, Prosperous, Clane, Kilcock and Celbridge.

Social Democrats Cllr Aidan Farrelly said poor planning and a rapid rise in residential development were causing stress and anxiety for parents.

“For new families, especially, who moved here, they were sold a dream of a community to live in, but there aren’t enough school places. The reality is we are years behind where we should be,” he said.

In the Greystones area of north Wicklow, where the three post-primary schools are oversubscribed, local campaigners estimate that 70-80 children in the area are without school places for next September.

A rising local population and a reduction in school places due to delayed plans to expand two of the schools are among the factors leading to shortages

Local Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said it was causing “distress, worry and frustration” for parents, yet principals had warned this would happen months ago.

“This is completely avoidable. Just look at the numbers in fifth and sixth class coming through. It looks like the same thing is going to happen again next year and the year after unless we get more places,” she said.

The department said it has been responding in some cases by providing modular accommodation in schools to expand capacity in the short term.

A department spokesman said while some applicants may not yet have received an offer of a school place for 2024/25, “families can be assured that all children in an area who require a school place will be provided with one”.

It added that there will be “greater clarity for families over the coming weeks as admissions processes continue to work through and required additional places come on stream”.

Minister for Education Norma Foley has told TDs in the affected areas that families can be assured that “any necessary solution will be delivered so that all will receive a first-year place”.

The department said it has invested heavily in the school capital projects in the counties of Kildare, Meath and elsewhere in recent years in response to the increase in demand for school places to ensure that there is a school place for every child. The level of investment in Co Kildare alone has been in the region of €250 million over the past five years.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent