Nenagh primary school first in Tipperary to be multi-denominational

Nenagh Community National School, formerly St Mary’s Junior Boys National School, has formally become the first multi-denominational school in County Tipperary catering for children of all beliefs and none from junior infants to up sixth class. The school was officially opened by Minister for Education Norma Foley last week, and is the first urban primary school in the country to successfully transfer from Catholic to multi-denominational patronage.  The move is a part of a wider reconfiguration of schools in Nenagh that will have all primary schools becoming mixed without segregation of the sexes. It is also a part of a new pilot process for the divestment of Catholic schools which covers Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Limerick, Arklow, Athlone, Dundalk, and Youghal, none of which presently have any multi-denominational education provision.

The Department and the Catholic bishops have already agreed that Cornamaddy National School in Athlone will be transferred to State patronage next September.  Minister for Education Norma Foley recognised the reconfiguration process to be slow, but stated consultation with communities was important.

Nenagh Community National School is now a state school run by the local Education and Training Boar (ETB), and instead of Catholic religious education, the children will follow a multi-belief and values programme. Catholic children attending the Nenagh school who are preparing for the sacraments will do so outside of school hours and not during the school day. Seamus Conboy, Director of Schools with ETB Ireland, calls the programme a four-strand programme that includes not just religion, but all aspects of a child’s identity such as cultural identity and philosophy.  Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monaghan, referring to the Nenagh school, said plurality of provision was in everyone’s interests and today was “a wonderful and happy day”.

The HAI welcomes the change of patronage in the Nenagh school, however, the school divestment programme is moving at a painfully slow pace, and we believe that the the target of at least 400 primary schools by 2030 as outlined in the Government plan will not be achieved. The government has not set out its plans for how to achieve its goal and how to meet the growing demand for multi-denominational and non-denominational schools.

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