The Department of Education will tender for experts to conduct an audit of building infrastructure and staffing in schools around the country.

The survey will concentrate on the second-level sector and will begin by looking at between four and six as yet unnamed towns.

A department spokeswoman said the idea was to find out how many sports halls, labs and other facilities various areas had with a view to making the best use of resources.

She said the Department of Education had a huge amount of information but it was not collated.

There will be concern that this may be a prelude to cuts or the amalgamation of schools.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the country had too many schools for its small population.

However, the department spokeswoman said this was not about cutting resources, but measuring them.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland have welcomed the move. The ASTI says schools already share resources, such as teachers. However, the union warned that combining resources was not always possible.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation expressed surprise that the department would not have this kind of information at its disposal at all times.

Minister Quinn received a round of applause on entering the TUI conference in Wexford today. The minister addressed delegates this afternoon.

Speaking to the media beforehand, he announced a new scholarship scheme for higher education.

There will be 60 sixty students from DEIS schools, and who hold medical cards, who will receive a bursary of €2,000 each from this September. The number will rise with over 350 students a year benefiting by 2015.

The awards will be awarded regionally on the basis of the leaving cert results achieved by students.

The minister is also making a commitment on the issue of Gay and Lesbian teachers.

There is currently a campaign to amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act to remove discrimination against gay and lesbian teachers.

The minister said the Programme for Government contains a commitment that they will remove discriminations against gay people, which prevent them from taking up employment as teachers.

He said it is a commitment he intends to fulfil.

Minister Quinn said he will publish proposals in the coming weeks.

Separately, speaking in response to criticism of his policies by Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, Mr Quinn said she was misinformed.

He said that when she talked to her colleagues in the Fine Gael parliamentary party they would be able to apprise her as to how she was misinformed.