In 2011, the Government began a programme to create a more diverse and inclusive school system. Recommendations were made for some Catholic primary schools to transfer patronage to alternative patron bodies. But since then, just a handful of Educate Together schools have opened up under the Government’s ‘divestment/reconfiguration’ process.
Recently, the Government proposed an updated ‘divestment/reconfiguration’ programme. This involves Education and Training Boards (ETB) reporting on the level of demand for a new choice of school patronage within areas identified for survey. However, ETBs are also applying to run these schools. The ETBs act as patron for Community National Schools (CNS). Educate Together believes that this constitutes a clear conflict of interest which could invalidate the overall process.
Another issue is that the decision-making power afforded to the current landowner (Catholic bishops) to determine the new patron to which a school will be transferred is at odds with the constitutional rights of parents to decide the type of school their children attend. Given that the vast majority of primary schools in the country are under the patronage and ownership of one denomination, decisions on patronage should be undertaken by an independent body to ensure a more transparent approach.
Educate Together has instead proposed our ‘Fair, Transparent and Equal Plan’ which puts parental wishes at the centre of the process:
- Fairness: families in towns identified by the previous Government scheme still waiting for their Educate Together schools should get them as soon as possible.
- Transparency: the Government should appoint an independent advisory group made up of all patron bodies as well as parent groups.
- Equality: there needs to be a nationwide confidential online survey of parents, run by an impartial state agency. We would then, for the first time, know the true profile of parental demand for schools of different types and the Government could allocate school places and resources fairly.
In 2013, the Government stated that Educate Together national schools were to open in the towns listed here: Arklow, Clonmel, Cobh, Dungarvan, Kells, Killarney, Loughrea, Nenagh, Palmerstown, Passage West, Shannon and Whitehall.
Educate Together is requesting that supporters in these areas assist our efforts to open these Educate Together national schools: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great work from the @ChildRightsIRL on #ReportCard2019 - recommending a review of the plan for the transfer of schools from religious patronage to ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of children https://t.co/wfHNdX2KFs pic.twitter.com/AYyjOD9Vnz— Educate Together (@EducateTogether) February 26, 2019