Pupil numbers in primary schools in several rural counties have fallen this year while pressure for places is piling up in the Greater Dublin Area.

The growing divide in where young families are settling comes into sharp focus in a Department of Education analysis of year-on-year changes in primary and post-primary enrolments, broken down by 31 local authority/administrative areas.

When account is taken of both sectors, as well as the Dublin region, the strongest growth in enrolments shows up mainly around Cork, Limerick and Galway, all university cities, with associated high concentrations of industry and business.

Already, the population flight from rural Ireland has seen a 10pc decline in the number of small primary schools over the past decade.

According to today’s Irish Independent, the urban-rural gap raises wider questions about the effectiveness of Government policies for regional and rural development.

It was previously reported that between September 2017 and September 2018, primary pupil numbers grew by 0.8pc nationally, with a 1.5pc increase at post-primary.

But the department's latest bulletin illustrates the uneven nature of year-on-year change, particularly at primary level, with falling enrolments in six counties , predominantly on the western seaboard, while Leitrim was static.

The biggest decline was in Co Clare, down 80 pupils,followed by Kerry (-39), Mayo (-29), Donegal (-27).

In contrast, enrolments rose in 24 areas, including in all of the four Dublin local authority zones.

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