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Parents to be surveyed in fresh move towards divestment of primary schools

Parents to be Surveyed

Parents of primary and pre-school children are to be surveyed as part of a renewed effort to encourage more Catholic schools to divest to multi-denominational patronage. Bernie McNally, Secretary General at the Department of Education, said the Department is still fully committed to the Programme for Government that promises to achieve 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030.  So far, only 150 of the 3,000 primary schools are multi-denominational, and 90% are Catholic.

Department of Education Secretary General

Ms McNally, speaking at an education conference in Cork, said that the Department had “learned a huge amount” about “what works and what doesn’t work” from a pilot scheme that was launched in some towns and four bigger cities about reconfiguring the patronage of primary schools.

Ms McNally said there was no date set for the parents’ surveys yet, however, the Department would publish an action plan and its learning from the pilot scheme by the end of this year. Parents would complete the surveys “in the privacy of their own homes” and would be provided with “accurate” information in advance, she said, adding that the surveys would be aimed to include the views of parents who are not comfortable speaking at public meetings.

“The learning from the pilot includes the need to answer questions in a very objective way, because sometimes misinformation can thrive,” Ms McNally said.

Very Slow Progress

Despite the Government’s commitment to working towards the divestment of a proportion of Catholic schools to multi-denominational, progress has been very slow, with only three Catholic primary schools having been transferred to multi-denominational patronage since 2016.

HAI Advocacy

The HAI has been campaigning for secular education for years. We have written to the Minister for Education pointing out that the progress regarding the divestment programme is very slow, and requested a copy of the Government’s specific plans on how the target of 400 multi-denomination schools by 2030 will be achieved, and how the Government intends to meet the growing demand for multi-denominational and non-denominational schools. We will continue to bring pressure to bear on the Department of Education and to work with others to ensure that this issue is given the priority it deserves, to demand that the promised action plan is delivered, and that it contains specific targets within a stated timeframe.

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