Educate Together, Ireland's equality-based school provider, notes that the figures released this morning from the 2016 census provide powerful evidence of the rapid trend towards increasing diversity in Ireland. The census figures provide more detail of religious diversity than ever before measured. These figures emphasise, in official statistics, the long-stated position of Educate Together, and a growing number of other stakeholders and members of the public, that we as a society must respond to this increasing diversity and introduce structural change in our education system.
Currently in Ireland, over 95% of primary schools are under Church management. Whilst many families value their faith-based schools in Ireland, those families who would prefer a model of education that doesn’t deliver faith formation during the school day are also entitled to choice for their children. In a society that is rapidly diversifying, as evidenced in the data, the State cannot continue to reinforce an environment in which the vast majority of families have no choice in the type of schools they can send their children to.
Census data should be a strong influencer on State policy, particularly in the area of education. With this in mind, Educate Together re-states its call on the Minister for Education and Skills and all other education providers to work with us to create a national network of equality-based schools that are legally bound to respect and cherish the identity of all children irrespective of their religious, cultural or social backgrounds.
In Educate Together schools, all religious and non-religious identities are guaranteed equality of esteem; children from all backgrounds are carefully nurtured and taught to interact across different viewpoints in an atmosphere of equal respect. Roughly half of the students in Educate Together schools come from Roman Catholic families, and these families have the option to organise First Communion preparation classes in the school, outside of school hours. At the same time, equality of esteem for all belief backgrounds is guaranteed in Educate Together's core Ethical Education curriculum.