Two multi-denominational school organisations, An Foras Patrunachta and Educate Together, raised concerns to the Minister for Education about parents of pre-schoolers having no say in Catholic school divestment scheme. Aodhan O Riordan, a Labour Party TD and a former national school principal said: “Without an advocate for change, and with those parents in sixth class having more of a say than parents of those aged 2 or 3, you are obviously going to have a situation where the status quo remains.”
School Reconfiguration for Diversity pilot
The School Reconfiguration for Diversity pilot included eight suburbs and towns across the country, however, only two schools have transferred to the patronage of their local Education and Training Boards. Currently, only 5% of all schools are multi-denominational with 88% of primary schools still being under Catholic patronage.
Following the rather unsuccessful pilot, the Department of Education is now planning to push for more Catholic primary schools to multi-denominational ones, however, it did not confirm whether this will include consulting parents of pre-school children. It said that it is “currently exploring the scope and arrangements for a potential survey of primary schools in relation to reconfiguration and details will be announce in due course.” The Department states that the details of how it will reach the goal of achieving a target of at least 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030 will be announced by the end of the year.
The upcoming divestment strategy comes after Census 2022 results that revealed a 10% drop in the number of people identifying as Catholics. 14% of the population identify as non-religious.
In their letter to the minister in March 2022, the multi-denominational patron bodies said: “From the ‘Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity’ documents that have been made available, we are concerned that there does not seem to be a clear mechanism for parents and families to have their voices heard on the type of school that will result from any transfers.”
“It is our view that the Department’s pilot programme should meaningfully engage with local parents, and that all members of the school community, as well as parents of pre-school children, should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard on any transfer of school patronage,” the patron bodies said.
Department of Education
The Department said of its upcoming strategy: “The goal remains to establish a strong process, that has the support of patrons and local communities, and which will enable us to continue to increase the number of multi-denominational primary schools across the country.”
Humanism Association of Ireland
The HAI has long been calling on the State to set out its plans to achieve its own goal of 400 multi-denominational schools by 2030.
You can read more about this in the Journel.ie article.