‘State-funded schools should be open to all’

Educate Together Publishes Its Submission On ‘Baptism Barrier’

Today Educate Together published its submission on Minister Bruton’s public consultation on the ‘baptism barrier’ and called for an end to religious discrimination in state-funded schools. It is Educate Together’s view that all children should be able to apply for enrolment in any state-funded school, irrespective of religious, social or cultural background.

Option 4: Outright Prohibition

Out of the proposed options, Educate Together most fully supports Option 4: Outright Prohibition. However, this support is accompanied by the proviso that the suggestion that families might be forced to sign an 'agreement' with the ethos of the school is completely removed. This ‘agreement’ compromises the beliefs of non-religious families, and must not be permitted. It is abhorrent to suggest that parents ‘sign a disclaimer’ that states they understand and support the ethos of a school that they may only be sending their children to because they lack an alternative. Furthermore, this ‘clause’ may undermine any claim those parents may have if their children are not provided with adequate ‘opt-out’ activities.

The other proposed options are unsatisfactory: 

Option 1: Catchment area
Educate Together believes that in view of the over-supply of denominational schools and the scarcity of Educate Together schools it would be unfair to limit children to a catchment area that may only offer denominational education. Therefore, Educate Together opposes enrolment policies based solely on catchment areas until such a time as there is choice in each catchment area. 

Option 2: Nearest school rule
Allowing a school to favour one child over another constitutes unfair discrimination regardless of the distance the children live from the school. While this option may reduce slightly the number of children from non-religious and minority-religious backgrounds experiencing such discrimination, the impact on each child who is discriminated against is the same.

Option 3: Quota system
Implementing a ‘quota’ system of children that are allowed access to a State-funded school is tokenistic. It is inconceivable that small children should be categorised in this way and enrolled on this basis just so they be ‘tolerated’ in a school whose ethos may be at odds with their cultural or religious background. Therefore Educate Together vehemently opposes this system.

More equality-based schools needed

Educate Together proposes that the real solution to such discrimination is an increase in the provision of equality-based schools that neither demand evidence of religious affiliation before enrolment nor treat children differently according to their religious background during the school day. Educate Together therefore calls on the Government to follow through on its commitment to families in 16 towns around Ireland that were promised Educate Together schools in 2012/13 and to work with Educate Together to open new schools where there is demand for its model of equality-based education. 

The deadline for the Department's consultation process on the role of religion in school admissions is March 20th. Educate Together is encouraging anybody who wants real change in Irish education to: make their own submission on the role of denominational religion in the school admissions process and the need for more equality-based schools by emailing admissions_religion@education.gov.ie