Four new secondary schools will open next year, the Department of Education has confirmed.

They will be built in Gorey, Co Wexford, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, Ballincollig, Co Cork and Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is now inviting applications for patronage of the four new post-primary schools.

In Dunshaughlin, the department is exploring the potential to locate the new school on lands currently being acquired by the minister.

In Blackrock, the department has acquired a site of approximately three acres for the school at Newtownpark Avenue, referred to as "the Abilene property".

This site has been earmarked for a new 1,000 pupil post-primary school, including four classrooms specifically for students with special educational needs.

The site identification process for the planned new schools in Ballincollig and Gorey is ongoing.

It is intended that the first phase of the four new second level schools will be planned for 500 or 600 places each, with provision to expand to 1,000 places in future phases.

Minister Foley said the Covid-19 pandemic was "an unusual and challenging time" for school patrons and school communities.

She said: "It is important that the patronage process for the post-primary schools which are to open in 2021 is conducted in as normal a fashion as possible.

"Patrons are being given the opportunity to apply to run the new schools, and parents given the opportunity to express their preference on the choice of patron."

The deadline is 21 October.

Ms Foley added: "Parental preferences for each patron, from parents/guardians of children who reside in the school planning areas concerned, together with the extent of diversity of provision currently available in these areas, will be key to decisions in relation to the outcome of this process."

The opening of three new schools in Dublin has been deferred from 2021 to 2022.

They will be located in the Dublin 2/4 area, as well as Donaghmede/Howth and Sallynoggin/Cherrywood.