Educate Together is today raising concerns around the newly announced pilot programme to identify schools which could transfer to multi-denominational patronage.
Whilst awaiting full details on how this new plan will operate, Educate Together is concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a clear mechanism for parents and families to have their voices heard on the type of school that will result from any transfers. The organisation believes that parents in the local community should have a say, including parents of school-going children and parents of pre-school children.
Educate Together is seeking a meeting with the Department of Education in order to obtain clarity.
Ireland’s equality-based school patron is also seeking clarity on how exactly school communities that consider transferring patronage will be given access to accurate information on all the patronage options available to them. From the limited information made available to date, it seems that school communities will only be given information about the Community National School model, which, in the interests of transparency, choice and fairness, is concerning.
Notwithstanding these concerns, Educate Together is supportive of any plan that facilitates the state taking a more active role in supporting school transfers to multi-denominational patrons, given that the pace of change has been so slow to date and that families have been waiting for school patronage change in towns and urban areas across the country for many years now.
Educate Together also welcomes the choice of parts of Dublin, Cork and Limerick and Galway as well as the towns of Arklow, Athlone, Dundalk and Youghal as pilot areas. There is a groundswell of support for change in these communities where parents have been campaigning for Educate Together schools for many years. Educate Together has long been engaging with these communities with a view to establishing equality-based schools to meet expressed demand.
Educate Together has specific expertise in opening schools and transferring school patronage over many years. As leaders in the provision of equality-based education in Ireland for more than four decades, and as a popular patron with parents, Educate Together is keen to work together with all stakeholders to ensure the Government’s target to provide at least 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030 is met.
It is important that schools, parents and communities are supported through any school patronage transfer process, and that all members of the school community are offered the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Related: Educate Together calls for parents’ voices to be heard in school system reconfiguration (9 March 2022)
400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030
Despite over a decade of commitments from successive Governments to diversify choice in the primary school system, less than 20 equality-based / multi-denominational schools have been established in Ireland under this process. It is now undeniable that the pace of change in this area has been far too slow to date.
To increase the diversity of school type in Ireland on a significant scale, Educate Together has made a number of recommendations:
- Publish a clear strategy to increase equality-based provision in order to achieve the government’s own target of at least 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030.
- Work with communities to ensure the provision of clear, non-partisan information on school transfers, and to ensure informed and meaningful consultation at local level.
- Prioritise and support the transfer of viable schools to equality-based, multi-denominational and non-denominational school patrons in line with proven parental demand.
- Establish Educate Together national schools in the following towns, where Government commitments were made back in 2013: Arklow, Clonmel, Cobh, Dungarvan, Kells, Killarney, Loughrea, Nenagh, Palmerstown, Passage West, Shannon and Whitehall.
- Discuss the issue at a Citizens Assembly on education so that the whole of society can be involved in finding solutions that have broad support.