Chris, a parent, shared her experience on the divestment programme in Raheny and the misinformation she encountered.
Chris received the Facilitator’s Preliminary Report to the School Patron by Don Mahon, and among other information, it stated that a multi-denominational school is located only 1.5 miles away, and that that school was not fully subscribed. This information was incorrect, so Chris challenged it in writing.
She inquired directly by contacting the admissions office for both North Bay Educate Together and Killester-Raheny-Clontarf Educate together, the only multi-denominational primary school options in the Killester-Raheny-Clontarf School Planning Area (KCRSPA). She was told that there was 25 available places and 135 applications received in North Bay Educate Together in 2021/2022 with 61 offers made and 60 children placed on the waiting list. In Killester-Raheny-Clontarf Educate Together School, there were 26 places available, and 74 applications received. These numbers were confirmed by Gerry McKevitt, New Schools Officer.
In contrast, Scoil Íde was undersubscribed by 17 places in September 2022. Yet this information was ignored by all in attendance at the Scoil Íde meeting and it was not included in the Preliminary Report. This information has a huge bearing on how parents in the area are choosing multi-denominational primary schools over Catholic primary schools and how there is clearly a deficit of places for multi-denominational schools in the KCRSPA.
It was clear that the school did not make inquiries about the subscription numbers of multi-denominational schools in areas. They chose not to do so, even though they had months to find out this extremely relevant information. Chris feels that for staff to simply push this statement as truth, for this major point to go unchecked and for it to be written in the report even though it is misinformation, takes much of the report’s merit away.
The other point Chris made was the absence of the ETBI Patron or any other party to the divestment process at the information meeting. Chris inquired about this and was told by the Principal of the school that only the Principal would be in attendance. There was no-one advocating for divestment at the meeting, other than parents who were in favour and they were forced to speak against the school Principal and in a very charged and intimidating setting of the staff room. Some were screamed at to ‘take their child somewhere else then!’, as was Chris. The meeting was biased against reconfiguration before any tangible information on how that would work was received by parents.
The damage of misinformation had already been done by the time the facilitator’s meetings came about. Parents were already disillusioned, confused and scared by the prospect of change with the lack of information coming from the Facilitator or Department of Education. The ETBI was the only entity who could have answered questions, however, they were not there as they were not invited.
Chris summarised her experience and concluded: My experience of the reconfiguration process on our campus in Raheny is as follows:
- It was lacking in proper scientific research and independent evidence and data. It did not attempt to collect, compile and present data regarding potential numbers for divestment, the desire for divestment amongst present parents and the need for divestment amongst future parents who are currently already living in the area. CSO figures just released confirm the data all points towards a deficit of availability in the area and the exponential growth-demand for access to multi-denominational education within Raheny and the KCRSPA.
- This process was driven and directed by the Archdiocese of Dublin- the Patron, not the ETBI who should have had the most input (but had zero input), especially where the consultation phase with parents are concerned.
- The lack of impartiality and presence of bias encumbered this process at every step.
- Staff in all three schools were clearly against the option of introducing a multi-denominational school to the campus and favoured retaining a Catholic school for those who desired it from the beginning of the process. If they were the only party to impart information to parents regarding the possible reconfiguration, then how can this be impartial? Parents had only had negative points of view from staff. The one positive, yet fleeting comment that “Maybe we need to change our school to reflect a modern society if desire is present” was the only argument in favour of reconfiguration supplied by staff during the whole process.
- This was a gross infringement on the integrity of the process which was derailed from the first day of the principals’ meetings without the ETBI or Facilitator in attendance. No impartial body was there to chair these meetings. Many parents walked into the Facilitator’s meeting believing that no Catholic school would be a part of the new reconfiguration. Msgr Dan O’ Connor had to assure parents that there would always be a Catholic school on campus and the option on the table was to introduce a multi-denominational school, whilst retaining a Catholic school but by that time, the damage of misinformation had already been done and parents (with views both in favour and against reconfiguration), had lost confidence in the pilot initiative. The generic government information pack did little to show what reconfiguration would look like on our campus.