Multidenominational primary schools are much more likely to be oversubscribed than Catholic schools, according to unpublished data collected by the Department of Education. Almost 26% of multidenominational schools have insufficient places to meet demand compared to nearly 6% of Catholic schools.
The issue has become evident after an argument over the removal of the “Baptism barrier” that prohibits Catholic schools to be oversubscribed due to prioritising admission on the basis of religion. The “Baptism barrier” has become a “stumbling block” to the reconfiguration of school patronage according to the Catholic Education Partnership that represents Catholic schools.
Records show that in 90 percent of cases, there was another Catholic school within close proximity with spare places. Close proximity was defined as within 2km in urban areas and 5km in rural location. The numbers, released to the Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, reflect enrolment returns for the 2020/2021 school year.
Education Equality, a parent-led advocacy group, stated that Catholic groups are attempting to make the Government policy of school reconfiguration conditional on the reinstatement of the “Baptism barrier” in Catholic schools. They believe the Catholic groups “are seeking to hold the State hostage”.
Still, the Catholic Education Partnership said that a decision to remove the “Baptism barrier” is a “discriminatory law, solely directed at Catholics, and no other faiths”.
The Government agreed to deliver 400 multidenominational primary school by 2030 to improve parental choice. Catholic bishops agreed to participate in a pilot initiative in eight areas with no multidenominational primary school including Arklow, Athlone, Dundalk and Youghal as well as parts of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.