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Enrolments rise in multi-denominational schools, but there's been a very slight decrease in Catholic schools

Almost 940,000 pupils are enrolled in primary and post-primary schools in Ireland.

ENROLMENTS ROSE BY 8,386 across all primary and post-primary schools in September 2019, to a total of 930,833.

Enrolments in multi-denominational schools in both primary at post-primary level increased by 4% while there was a very small decrease, just 40 pupils, in enrolments in Catholic schools.

The Department of Education and Skills today published the first results on enrolments  in primary and post-primary schools in September for the 2019/2020 academic year.

Total enrolments in primary schools fell slightly to 559,378 in September, a decrease of 170 or 0.03% on September 2018.

The fastest growing category in both percentage and absolute terms was multi-denominational schools which increased by 4.8% or an additional 1,746 pupils.

This compares with Catholic schools which decreased by 0.4% or 1,810 fewer pupils.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of primary schools with a Catholic ethos fell by 16, from 2,776 to 2,760; while those with a multi-denominational ethos rose by 31, from 119 to 150.

Small schools remain a distinctive feature of the Irish education system, with 716 schools having 60 or fewer pupils enrolled for this academic year. This accounts for 23.1% of all schools, representing 4.4% of total enrolments.


Total enrolments in post-primary schools stood at 371,455 in September 2019, an increase of 8,566 pupils, or 2.4% per cent, on September 2018 (362,889).

Pupils in multi-denominational schools increased by 4% (6,557 pupils) over the 12 months to September, while Catholic schools saw their numbers rise by 1,770 (1%). Church of Ireland schools also saw an increase in enrolments, by 179 (1.6%).

The number of post-primary schools has been gradually rising for the last number of years, going from a low of 700 in 2013 to 723 in 2019. This growth has been led by multi-denominational schools, which have increased by 9.7% in the last 10 years from 321 in 2009 to 352 in 2019.

In the same period the number of Catholic schools has decreased by 4.7%, from 361 to 344.

Education Minister Joe McHugh said the figures “highlight important changes in our school-going population, with a fall in primary enrolments for the first time since 2000 while numbers in post-primary schools have risen substantially, as we expected”.

“They also reflect the important changes taking place in the patronage of our schools, with more choice available to parents.

“At primary level the number of multi-denominational schools has doubled from 73 to 150, while at secondary level more than half of our schools, 352, are now multi-denominational.”

McHugh said there is also a move towards larger schools in the post-primary system as enrolments increase each year. He added that the figures “provide essential data to enable the department to plan and to implement the change processes underway to provide for greater diversity and choice in our education system”.

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