A Department of Education study has recommended the establishment of five new Educate Together schools around the country.

The recommendation comes after a survey of the areas found strong demand for multi-denominational education among parents living there.

The five areas are: Arklow, Co Wicklow; Castlebar, Co Mayo; Trim, Co Meath; Tramore, Co Waterford and Whitehall in Dublin

They are the first areas of 44 to be surveyed nationally.

An analysis of the results, published today, has found that between 37% and 50% of respondents wanted a greater choice of patronage, and up to a third said they would avail of new choices if they existed.

The new model most favoured by those who wanted change was a multi-denominational school run by patron body Educate Together.

The five areas are all places with no current multi-denominational provision and stable populations.

Castlebar has 11 schools in its wider area, all of which are Catholic.

Parents of pre-primary and primary school children were questioned for the online survey. They had to provide PPS numbers and other details to prove their identity and residence.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he would now ask the Catholic bishop in each of these areas to consider re-configuring their schools in order to free up school accommodation for the new educational provision.

Mr Quinn said the survey would be extended to other areas in January.

Almost 2,000 parents responded to the survey, representing almost 3,500 children, or between 23% and 43% of under-12s living in the different areas

Of those seeking a wider choice, Educate Together was the first preference of 56% to 76% of parents.

Irish language body An Foras Pátrúnachta was the preference for between 6% and 26% of respondents, while between 10% and 18% favoured the VECs.

Between 34% and 44% of respondents said they did not want to see more choice in their area.

Between 70% and 80% of parents said they wanted English language education. All these areas already have a Gaelscoil.

The study shows the level of demand for change is such that a five-classroom school could be opened immediately in Castlebar.

According to the analysis, demand in the other four areas suggests that four three-classroom schools could be filled immediately, with pupils already in the system.