The Government has announced a 70% increase in capital spending on schools over the next decade as part of a €12bn investment in education.

The next ten years will also see an almost trebling on the higher education capital budget from €800m to €2.2 billion.

The further education and training sector will be granted a capital budget of €300 million for the period.

Under the plan, €8.4bn will be spent on school buildings over the next decade.

The planned investment comes under the latest national development plan known as Project Ireland 2040.

As well as new school buildings, the Government said construction work taking place this year and in 2019 would facilitate the replacement of more than 600 school prefabs.

It said a pilot scheme aimed at retrofitting schools to make them more energy efficient will be rolled out in a national programme of works in 2022.

It committed to a PE hall building and modernisation programme, which will begin in 2023.

The Government said €420m is to be invested in the Digital Strategy for Schools. This investment is aimed at underpinning new subjects, such as Computer Science, at Leaving Certificate level.

The State will invest €2.4bn in higher education over the lifetime of the plan.

Over the next five years, €532m in additional Exchequer funding will be invested in infrastructural development across the sector.

A €112m refurbishment and upgrade programme will include the upgrading of STEM facilities in Dundalk IT, new engineering facilities at the Limerick Institute of Technology Coonagh campus, and upgrades to the Galway-Mayo IT's Castlebar campus.

Two other projects announced today are a new 'Future Tech' building at Dublin City University, and a new Sports Science, Health and Recreation building at IT Tallaght.

There will be €7m extra allocated each year from next year to support an expansion in the number of research awards granted through the Irish Research Council, as well as the further development of the ICT infrastructure supporting research in higher education institutions. 

As for demand for new school buildings, the Department of Education said that enrolments at post-primary level are projected to continue to grow to 2025.

It said that while national enrolments at primary level were currently reaching peak levels, regional and local variations mean that there will be a continued strong need for provision of additional school places in areas of population growth.

It said that 26 of the 42 new schools to be established between 2019 and 2022 are at primary level.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals welcomed the announcement, but said teacher shortages must also be addressed.

In a statement, the association said while increased budgets for new schools and refurbishment are important, "teacher shortages has been a very negative feature of our education system".

The association also said the reform of the Senior Cycle and Leaving Certificate must be prioritised.