A new Government and a new Education Minister: it’s time to deliver educational equality

Educate Together warmly welcomes appointment of the new Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD. With his background in economic management and his strong track record in fostering innovation, Educate Together hopes that Minister Bruton will understand that investment yields results and that it is investment that is needed if real progress is to made in Irish education. 

Proper resources needed 

Educate Together also welcomes the reported commitments in the draft Programme for Government to increase non-denominational and multi-denominational schools to 400 by 2030. This figure echoes Educate Together’s stated aim that all families in Ireland would have access to an equality-based school within 30 minutes travel time from their home.

However, the incoming Minister must be willing to properly fund and resource the establishment of these schools. There needs to be a properly resourced programme with a dedicated budget agreed at the cabinet table built into the expenditure projections. 

To this end, Educate Together recommends a ring-fenced funding stream of €10 million each year to support the building of new equality-based schools and the reconfiguration or amalgamation of existing school facilities.

Paul Rowe, CEO, Educate Together: 

Right now, Educate Together offers a practical, achievable plan for a national network of equality-based schools. Schools that don’t demand proof of religion at the school gate; schools that don’t segregate children along religious lines during the school day; schools that cherish all children equally. We are willing and able to work on opening these schools, but this cannot be done on well-intentioned policy documents and goodwill alone.”

Parental demand is paramount

It is imperative that any new schools established are in line with proven parental demand. Parents around the country are clamouring for equality-based education: they have waited long enough and now is the time for their voices to be heard. There is a pressing need for more Educate Together schools, with between 15,000 – 20,000 children’s names now signed up to campaign lists for new national and second-level school places all over Ireland. 

Equality-based education is key

It is not essential that these new schools be under the patronage of Educate Together, but they must deliver the same level of guaranteed equality of esteem and access as Educate Together schools. The incoming Government should be careful not to fall into the trap of establishing schools that merely provide lip-service to inclusion in the name of increasing plurality. Specifically, Educate Together has serious concerns about the Community National School (CNS) model of education. The CNS model supports the labelling and segregation of children along religious lines during the school day. This is not real progress in a system already monopolised by denominational education.

Paul Rowe, concluded: 

“The people of Ireland have been promised ‘a new dawn for Irish politics’ and a ‘radically different Dáil’ in recent days. Families up and down the country advocating for new equality-based schools and for radical reform of the Irish education system certainly hope that will happen. The work done in lifetime of the 32nd Dáil can bring about a transformed education system in which all children have access to schools that are truly inclusive and equality-based.”